We need to confess: these accounts are out of control

Disclaimer: the Wolfpacket in no way supports the cyberbullying or defamation of any student or staff member. If you see accounts participating in this behavior, or if you or someone you know has been harmed by these accounts, do not be afraid to reach out to those you trust or to report to Bullybox.

Imagine you open your phone one day to see that four new accounts have requested to follow you on Instagram. You intend to accept them, but upon further investigation you realize that these accounts are not just the average classmate–they are anonymous CHS gossip accounts that have seemingly sprung up out of the blue. Confused, you look at a few of their posts to see what it’s all about and are horrified to find one spreading a nasty rumor about one of your close friends. You scroll through the account full of hateful screenshots about classmates and even teachers, in order to find the person who has sent in the false rumor, but soon realize that this rumor, and all the other posts on the account, are anonymous. No one knows who is sending in such cruel “confessions,” and more importantly, who is running the accounts.

Scrolling through these accounts, many may ask themselves how their fellow classmates could be so immature: “Why did my school join this trend? Did we not leave this back in middle school?” However, even though high school students may believe that they are above the petty drama, CHS is far from the first school to join the “gossip account” trend. Viral TikTok videos show teenagers all over the country creating similar accounts. Some videos show students making accounts for schools they don’t attend, just for the fun of it (or maybe for TikTok fame). One video even displayed a teenage girl selecting a school at random from a map, creating an account, and eventually reaching thousands of followers, all for a school she knew absolutely nothing about. This then begs the question- Why have these accounts gained so much traction, and what does it say about society as a whole?

At first glance, these childish gossip sites may seem like isolated incidents of ignorant teenagers having nothing better to do, but in reality they are a small-scale example of a much larger problem facing today’s society: the spread of misinformation through anonymous internet platforms. For example, the anonymous organizers of Chsgossipntea, one of many Instagram sites dedicated to CHS gossip, justified their platform as a harmless form of entertainment.

“Honestly, we started this as a joke because of the influx of ‘gossip’ accounts. But now it’s just fun to see what people say when they know it’s anonymous. It’s actually really interesting to see what people really have to say,” the account told the Wolfpacket in an instagram direct message.

These “joke” accounts are not funny for those on the receiving end. Neither are the fake Facebook groups calling the coronavirus a hoax, accusing Black Lives Matter of starting the West Coast fires, or spreading blatant lies about U.S politicians. These are two sides of the same coin. Complete anonymity online means there is no accountability for spreading false information. It may be interesting to see what sort of rumors classmates spread, just as it is interesting to read a conspiracy theory about an unpopular politician, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t serious negative real-world consequences. Seeing a rumor about yourself or a friend can be extremely detrimental to a teenager’s mental health. And just as was seen in the 2016 election, misinformation on Facebook can have profound and lasting effects on an entire society. So what can CHS do about it?

Student and parent complaints have already made the administration aware of the existence of the accounts and the dangers they pose to students. Assistant Principals of Student Services Clara Dehmer and Andrea Deligio explain CHS protocol when investigating the accounts.

“We try to verify the complaint and then depending on what we find we are able gather information leading us to a specific student…. ” Dehmer said. “Then what we do is we follow up to where ever that may lead us. It could be a person that is being talked about or someone who made a comment. Our goal is always to try and figure out who is doing this because it is very inappropriate.”

They also spoke about the role students can play in removing these accounts. “If these posts are true, we would encourage students to report it to the appropriate authorities,” Dehmer said. “We really depend on the students to speak up and be a voice. We really want to make sure that all students feel safe and that is our main goal here.”

After six months of quarantine and little to no social interaction, it is obvious that teenagers are looking for things to do. With extracurriculars, sports, and other activities canceled, students now turn to their phones for any connection to the outside world. Seeing Instagram posts and TikTok videos where people around the same age create gossip accounts gives context as to why these trends would be emulated by students at CHS. However, not every teenage trend that sweeps the nation is necessarily beneficial. And while quarantine may have eroded students’ social skills, that does not give anyone a free pass on public online bullying.

Chs.confessions.og, also known as the notorious chs.confessions_v.3, is one of the most popular gossip accounts at CHS. But, despite their constant posting of anonymous and hurtful confessions the owner does not not believe that they are contributing to the problem of online bullying.

“I feel I’m impacting CHS by letting people speak up about issues that they feel have impacted them without having a name attached to it,” the account said in a direct message. “And it helps people because some comments are really supportive, such as comments on people taking about their mental health. Of course there’s always going to be toxic people trying to spread rumors but other people will speak out and confirm or deny that.”

It is true that there are posts addressing the mental health of students or anonymous confessions venting about teenage struggles. However, the primary goal of these accounts is to spread sensationalized rumors about sexual misconduct, backstabbing betrayals, and generally mean-spirited allegations about real CHS students. While some may argue that exposing students’ past mistakes and bad behavior is necessary, doing it through anonymous student-run Instagram accounts is most definitely not the right approach. Furthermore, complete anonymity online fosters an environment where students feel there will be no consequences for publishing a potentially extremely harmful statement, whether it is true or not. Not to mention that being publicly humiliated online can seriously impact a full-grown and confident adult, so one can only imagine the effect it can have on a self-conscious teenager who has been deprived of social interaction for the past six months.

One anonymous confession on the account chs.confessions.og said it best. “Here’s the problem with this account, it’s making all these freshman and sophmores think its okay to be a little pu*** a** b**** and not say sh** to people’s face directly,” the anonymous sender said. “Y’all need to grow up and stop hiding behind your phone because quarantine is not going to last forever and eventually you’re going to have to go back outside and deal with the real world again.”