May 22, 2024 (6:00 PM)

4 min read

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Graphic by Mariz Cenojas

If you’re a student, you may have much to say about the things happening around you. You may want to share strong opinions on social issues, raise school-related concerns to the student body, or–as mundane as it may sound–you’re experiencing the nerve-wracking dilemma of whether to confess to your longtime crush. At the same time, you may be worried that these actions will lead to you being judged, harassed, or even bullied. These are valid concerns, and as you ponder upon them, you are presented with a solution: why not use an anonymous page to express yourself?

Anonymous pages such as AdDU Freedom Wall and Blue’s Confessions are avenues for practicing our freedom of speech. However, without the proper moderation, the anonymity they provide can be abused by cyberbullies and online harassers. Due to their reach, the aforementioned pages can have severe implications for the Ateneo community.

On the surface, AdDU Freedom Wall and Blue’s Confessions seem entirely harmless. At some point, we may have tried pasting sticky notes on a physical freedom wall. Freedom wall messages are usually short and sweet–many of them are shy confessions and encouraging words. 

Third-year BS Electrical Engineering student Ron Edward Dulhao told Atenews that anonymous pages allow him to express his appreciation for others via an online safe space: “I’ve created or submitted an anonymous post but it only revolves around how I appreciate others. It helps me to completely say what I want to say to the person.” 

The overall practice is known to foster a positive atmosphere among its participants, so why shouldn’t the anonymous pages lead to the same outcome? 

Unfortunately, this hasn’t been the case with these anonymous pages. Take the now-inactive AdDU Freedom Wall, for example. It had no rules or guidelines for posting; you may find entries throwing shade against particular courses and/or clusters while degrading their associated career paths. One entry outright called the current generation of Ateneans “sheltered little brats.” These posts incite conflict and discord among members of the Ateneo community–the exact opposite of the positive atmosphere we should foster.

An Atenean, who would like to be addressed as Zachary, shared in an interview that they think the mentioned pages are great platforms for spreading awareness. However, abuse can occur: they recalled the “Philo wars” incident on Blue’s Confessions, which polarized non-AdDU SHS graduates from those who graduated from AdDU SHS. 

These online pages can also be used to attack certain students. Many entries reveal the names of students and their courses, which may be damaging to their reputation. Zachary also relayed to Atenews their peers’ experiences with being targeted by specific posts. Despite the use of “nicknames”, the obviousness of the context still revealed the students’ identities. They also added, “If the confessions are attacking a certain student about something they cannot control, then that could be referred [to] as bullying, which results in emotional/psychological damage.” They also stressed that, even if the victims seem to not care, the damage done can be irreversible. These issues must be addressed privately, not in the public eye. 

“Think before you click” may sound overused, but it rings true. especially when taking these anonymous pages into account. SAMAHAN Commission on Students’ Rights and Welfare (StRAW) Head Commissioner Camille Ofamin told Atenews the active role students play in maintaining a safe and respectful online environment for our fellow Ateneans.

The StRAW Head Commissioner advised students experiencing online harassment and bullying from AdDU Freedom Wall or Blue’s Confessions to approach their respective clusters’ StRAW representatives or the Office of Student Affairs (OSA) for assistance.

“From what I’ve noticed, the administrators of these anonymous pages often struggle to effectively filter out harmful confessions and content,” Ofamin pointed out.

The fundamental responsibility falls upon us Ateneans to prevent the misuse of anonymous pages. To indirectly quote an anonymous post: we cannot call ourselves Ateneans if we don’t reflect the magis values we strive to uphold. Cyberbullying and harassment are not “Yippie Yey” activities for AdDU students, after all.

This article was published in the April 2024 Tabloid Issue of Atenews. Read it here: https://tinyurl.com/AtenewsTabVol69No3.



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