Since October, a Facebook page named Tiger Confessions has been taking the campus by storm. With more than 4,000 members from a wide range of class years and Princeton affiliations, it has posted more than 8,000 “confessions” ranging from compliments to serious cries for help.
Though celebrated for creating a space for honest conversation, it is not without its controversies: A recent anonymous post by a student claiming to have a suicide “all planned out” echoed months-long concerns about the appropriateness of the platform for sharing serious mental-health issues, a matter that attracted the attention of the University.
“The Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students, Campus Life, and the Office of the Dean of the College are aware of the dire posting on Facebook and want to express our collective concern,” the University said in a comment addressed to students. For those facing personal struggles, it suggested a series of campus resources like Counseling and Psychological Services (CPS), residential-college staff, and the Department of Public Safety. “Do know that we stand available to help and that we all care very much about the health, safety, and well-being of our campus community.” (The original post and related comments have since been removed from the page.)
Behind Tiger Confessions is freshman Christine Hu, the page’s moderator who initially was known only by the pseudonym “Ty Ger.” Hu’s identity was revealed in a recent profile published by the University Press Club, in which she credited the Facebook “compliments page” of Phillips Exeter Academy, her high school, as the primary inspiration for Tiger Confessions. Enrolling as a member of the Class of 2021, Hu took a year off halfway through her first semester because of mental-health concerns.
“When I was here a year ago, sometimes I felt I was the only one struggling,” she told the Press Club’s blog, The Ink. But after serving as the gatekeeper for Tiger Confessions for six months, she has a different perspective. “I wonder sometimes how much things would change if people actually interacted with each other a little more,” she said, adding that she has met personally with several people who reached out to her through the page.
Members of the Facebook page can submit any kind of “confession” via a public Google form to Hu, who decides what is posted and what is not; the only official rules for submission are for members to “be mindful of consent” and use “no harmful language.” Members of the Princeton community whose requests to join the Facebook group are accepted are then free to respond with comments.
Posts relating to emotional difficulties are as common as light-hearted confessions, but the former increase during stressful periods like midterms.
“I think [Tiger Confessions is] a good forum to say things we’re normally afraid to say to people we know,” said Grace Collins ’20, who frequently responds to posts on the group. Thanks to their guaranteed anonymity, posters are candid about their struggles with loneliness, depression, and imposter syndrome, among other afflictions. “I feel like life could be so much better, but nothing I’ve tried has worked,” wrote one poster.
CPS director Calvin Chin has been keeping an eye on Tiger Confessions. Although he supports forums that make people “feel less isolated and alone,” he is concerned about students using Tiger Confessions as their primary source of support. “There is no guarantee that someone will respond right away, and the students who do respond may not have the proper training to respond effectively,” he said.
On the flip side, there are many posts on topics that offer easy diversion: admiration for friends, acts of kindness, missed connections, washing-machine etiquette. Some take a more serious tone, as in a discussion of wealth disparity.
In February, Whig-Clio hosted a debate on the motion, “This House supports the rise of Tiger Confessions.” The opposition won the debate, much of which focused on issues related to mental health. Student op-eds in The Daily Princetonian have joined the discussion, and residential-college advisers have discussed ways to best respond to the page.
As for the page’s creator, Hu said Tiger Confessions has “made me feel more part of the community,” and said making her identity public should “better establish a sense of trust and accountability” between the moderator and group members.
“I feel pretty attached to Tiger Confessions,” she said. “Either the page will die out naturally, or I’ll just continue running it and see where it goes.”