Psst, I have a confession to make - on Facebook

SINGAPORE - They are places for undergraduates to spill their deepest secrets about life, love - and sometimes even sex.

So it is little wonder that one such online confessions page was at the centre of the recent condom controversy at the National University of Singapore (NUS).

Last Monday, several announcements were made on the forum about contraceptives being removed from the shelves at a campus pharmacy - triggering a debate about whether they should be sold on school premises.

Now, the episode has cast the spotlight on the growing popularity of Facebook confession pages among undergraduates in Singapore.

The forums are set up by different groups of students and allow users to share any kind of secret anonymously.

And with Valentine's Day approaching, many of the confessions have focused on campus romances and crushes.

The pages have also gone viral, with NUS Confessions - the first to be set up - receiving more than 12,000 likes. Meanwhile, the one for students at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) has garnered more than 8,000 likes while Singapore Management University's (SMU) has over 3,000.

Entries are submitted via a third-party site and posted by page administrators.

The creators of the NTU forum - two second-year computing students who declined to be named - said they receive about 200 to 400 posts a day and spend around six hours every day screening them before they are put up on the site.

"The idea of confessing anonymously and reaching out to a wide audience is quite exciting for students," one of them told The Straits Times.

Confessions from secret admirers form the bulk of posts across the pages. One left on the NUS forum was from a student who wanted to shelter with his umbrella a girl walking from the National University Hospital to the science block.

Some posts contain raunchier details. "I walk around in my hall corridor at night to listen to my neighbours going at 'it'," read one. Rants about campus problems such as crowded buses, lecturers and quirky canteen stallholders were also posted. But there is no way to verify the writers' identities and a handful of posts are "pranks".

"It's all in the name of fun," said a second-year student from the NUS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.

A 20-year-old first-year student at the faculty, who wanted to be known only as Davina, added: "It just relieves stress and is a form of entertainment and humour."

Social media expert Michael Netzley, an assistant professor of communication at SMU, said the pages were harmless but more attention-seeking comments had appeared since they began attracting a wider audience.

Former nominated MP and lawyer Siew Kum Hong said the creators have a duty to moderate the content, as suggestive posts could lead to stalking. "The school campuses are not all that big, and it could be actually possible to identify people based on clues," he added.

SMU dean of students Ong Siew Heng has e-mailed undergraduates to remind them of the school's code of student conduct.

ateng@sph.com.sg


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