Community forum discusses impact of Mac Confessions

About 25 people attended the forum, which was put on by the Race, Sex, and Work in the Global Economy class.

“I’m jealous of all the students who can simply travel the world every summer while I’m stuck at home working 60 hours a week to almost afford tuition.”

This recent post on Facebook page Mac Confessions garnered over sixty likes and four pages of comments—often aggressive exchanges between polar views.

For students in the course Race, Sex, and Work in the Global Economy, these exchanges demonstrate the importance and the pitfalls of spaces like Mac Confessions. To respond to that, they organized an open forum about the Facebook page the Monday before Thanksgiving. About 25 people attended.

“While we appreciate Mac Confessions’ anonymity letting people say things that we don’t usually get to hear,” event co-organizer Alvin Kim ’14 said, “it’s kind of a problem that we can’t facilitate or moderate the discussion in any real way, so that’s what we tried to do: talk about issues brought up by Mac Confessions in a productive way.”

“Everyone came to the event not only with interesting ideas to share, but had obviously thought a lot about Mac Confessions and its issues before the event,” said Kelsey Woida ’14, who also helped organize the event. “It’s obvious that this is a topic that’s on the Macalester student body’s minds.”

Christian Smith ’15, who comments regularly on the Mac Confessions page, attended the forum hoping to hear about other opinions on the comment sections.

“I think that because the comments on the posts aren’t anonymous, people are more reserved when talking about them,” Smith said. “Personally, my justification for commenting is that if I find a post to be hurtful and don’t comment, that’s implicitly agreeing with what the post says.”

Many students at the forum, though, felt comments lead to the often-hostile discussions that occur on the page.

“There are people who definitely find empowerment in being able to speak up or agree with something through commenting, but some of the most aggressive confrontations—basically cyber bullying—happens in the comment section,” Woida said.

“Mac Confessions can often be a bottomless pit of negative posts and comments where people can just bash each other with no real consequences,” said Noah Koch ’14, who also attended the forum.

Koch said the forum provided an opportunity to discuss the Facebook community he finds so problematic.

“It was nice to have a moment to deconstruct Mac Confessions to figure out what bothered us about it and how it’s used,” he said.

Woida said that not all of the discussion centered on critiquing the Facebook page.

“It was expressed that Mac Confessions can be a positive thing because it exposes racist, sexist and classist feelings at Macalester,” Woida said. “Not because it’s inherently good to have those feelings, but at least now we know these feelings do exist on campus and we can start dealing with them.”

Those in attendance suggested that more events be sponsored on campus for students to talk about issues raised on the page in a constructive manner.

“Mac Confessions is a potentially great resource for campus because there aren’t a lot of spaces where students can anonymously express what’s on their minds,” Woida said. “It can help identify the gaps in conversations we should be having face-to-face at Mac.”