Living vicariously through confession pages

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I still recall when receiving a ‘Top Fan’ badge on Durfess was the highlight of my week, which was perhaps a new low for me. Facebook’s algorithm had noted every time I tried to submit a confession, or when I refreshed the page for updates, or when I tagged a friend in the comments – the sum total of which had apparently surpassed that of a large portion of the page’s viewers.

It made me wonder: what made Durfess so attractive? What is it about Durfess and Tindur that has me edging towards a Facebook addiction? Enrolling at Durham during a global pandemic meant that I have experienced close to none of the University’s traditions despite already having advanced through a third of my undergraduate degree.

In a way, I was able to live the Durham experience vicariously through Durfess. I got to learn about the colleges, the cafes and house dynamics through a confession page instead of through my own eyes. Durfess painted an animated picture of Durham, allowing me to assign a personality to the colleges as I walked past their grounds.

‘Durfess and Tindur feel like a warm hug.’

Seeing comedic content on library announcements, summative work or Zoom lectures has also forged a sense of belonging in me, like I was on the same boat as other people. With Zoom lectures or tutorials, you either don’t know how many others are in your class, or you see them enclosed in little boxes on your screen. The warped sense of reality makes you feel really isolated.

Reading about the experiences of other students at Durham has helped ease that sense of isolation, even if the remedy is transient. Durfess’ transition into confessions with more serious undertones has also given me insight into British politics. As an international fresher, I arrived at university as a “double outsider”, but learning about how locals feel about lockdown and whatnot has really helped with my assimilation.

I believe anonymity is also a big part of why Durfess and Tindur have been hailed as mainstays of the Durham student experience. Anonymity strips people of the weight that comes with their reputation. The idea of submitting a confession without any consequences is appealing.

While this can be dangerous, the moderated nature of these pages enables them to have relatively low toxicity. Without the fear of repercussions, students are more willing to speak up about heavy subject matters, usually sparking debates and discussions in the comments of people inspired to follow suit.

 On the receiving end, people are also more willing to tune in and listen, as opposed to in real life where the value of your opinion may be measured by social class or status. The impartiality of confession pages that root in their anonymity is exactly what we need in the current climate, and this is where Durfess and Tindur thrive best.

‘The idea of submitting a confession without any consequences is appealing.’

More importantly, confession pages bring connectivity. Sometimes we might get overwhelmed by feelings of stress or anxiety, especially with the world practically falling apart right now. In these instances, Durfess and Tindur feel like a warm hug.

On a lighter note, Tindur grants people the platform to connect or reconnect, professing feelings of admiration they were otherwise too shy to express. If Durfess gave me comfort, then Tindur gave me hope. Not for finding love at Tesco Metro (but the thought is welcomed), but for love still being out there and that the ‘Durham 70%’ isn’t just an urban myth.

To this day I’m still waiting for my confessions to make it onto Durfess, but in the meantime, I’ll continue incorporating reading confession pages into my daily routine, hoping it doesn’t spiral into a crippling addiction.

Of course, my greatest desire is for the Durham student experience detailed in Durfess posts to eventually occur to me in real life, so that I can relive my fresher’s year in true Durham fashion.

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