Book Excerpt: 'Click'

One extension of our fear searches, which confirms the potential of the Internet to become our confidant, is the nascent category of confessional websites. The online confession genre owes its genesis to Frank Warren, the author of the best-selling PostSecret, a collection of confessions submitted anonymously on postcards.

The concept, which started as an art project in 2004, led to the best seller and eventually in 2005 to a website that featured Internet-submitted confessions. In keeping with Internet tradition, several websites flourished by expanding on the idea of anonymous Web-based confessionals, such as the Experience Project, a confession website built around a social networking structure. Now not only could Web users submit their deepest, darkest secrets in anonymity, they could also get comments and responses from others who shared similar secrets.

Some confessional websites are devoted to specific predicaments or life stages. Truemomconfessions.com, for example, is an anonymous confession site devoted to the challenges of motherhood. The site's tagline is "Motherhood is hard, admit it." Perusing the site, you can find confessions such as "I love my kids. I love being a mom and wiping butts and cooking 'kid-friendly' meals. I do not, however, necessarily like my kids today," or "There were days I wished to God that I stopped at one." The founder of the site has also created other specific confessional sites, such as True Office Confessions, True Dad Confessions, and True Bride Confessions.

When we look at the demographics of visitors to confessional websites, it's clear that at this time, just the beginning for online confessions, there is an Early Adopter (see Chapter 10) for this type of activity. Visitors to these sites tend to skew female (70 percent), and live in affluent households in suburbia. Essentially, these websites are giving us a window into the online equivalent of Wisteria Lane.20 When we look at the collective activity on confessional websites, and what we choose to confess to search engines in the form of search queries, we have a pretty accurate collection of what weighs on our minds. While the Internet may cause us to withdraw from one another, the anonymity it affords us may, like the screen in a Catholic confessional, allow us the safety to admit things we wouldn't normally discuss with anyone else. This insight into the human condition isn't limited to what scares us or what we feel the need to confess. The increase in "how to" queries provides another treasure trove of online data, telling us what we want to learn.

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