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Comment wars don't start change

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The Carnegie Mellon community has found a new outlet for complaining, trolling, and messing around on the Internet in the Facebook page “CMU Confessions.”

The page now has over 900 likes and hundreds of posts ranging in length from a short phrase to short stories.
Besides wasting time reading all the posts, some people start online wars by commenting about racism, sexism, and other issues plaguing our campus. Although it’s admirable to care about your beliefs, posting your opinions on CMU Confessions is a waste of time. You are not addressing the original author of a post, nor do you know what the original intent of the post was.

For those of you smart enough to avoid the page all together, the way it works is simple. The person running the page has created an anonymous Google Survey that students can fill out. Barring some very extreme cases, all confessions will be posted to the Facebook and Twitter feeds of the account within a few days.

The biggest problem is that anyone can post anonymously, and readers of the page have no idea if they are addressing a fellow student, some random person, or their best friend. This uncertainty is what makes commenting on posts such a colossal waste of time.

The Internet is full of websites that are victim to “trolling,” defined by urbandictionary.com as “the art of deliberately, cleverly, and secretly pissing people off, usually via the Internet, using dialogue.” CMU Confessions is a prime example of a page that attracts people who do just that. Many anonymous posts to the group are understood, and rightfully so, as racist, sexist, or just plain mean.

Does replying to these anonymous posts actually do anything? In my opinion, the answer is no. By getting worked up about posts made anonymously, all you are doing is making someone more likely to post something obnoxious again.

CMU Confessions should continue to be a place that people feel safe offering their opinions, secrets, or anything else they want to share anonymously with other students, but I don’t think paragraph-length replies are necessary or worthy of anyone’s time.

Next time you see a post that upsets you, stop and realize that by posting a long reply berating the anonymous author of the original post, you are giving that person the satisfaction they want. Take a minute and realize it’s probably more constructive to become involved in an organization that works to end the kind of discrimination that upset you. Use the anger you feel toward these ill-informed and anonymous cowards to do some good.

CMU Confessions definitely isn’t all bad though. The page is full of well-intended compliments, gripes people identify with, and tragic stories of unrequited love (I’m looking at you, green-eyed Indian girl). I think reading the page is a lot of fun, and even leaving a word or two of encouragement here or there for someone struggling with their academics, self-esteem, stress or other issues is definitely a nice thing to do. However, beware of wasting your time when something makes you mad.

Getting into heated arguments does nothing to change the underlying problems, and instead perpetuates a cycle of offensive posts. In the wise words of Maya Angelou, “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. Don’t complain.” Instead of complaining about ignorant comments, be proactive and do something about it.