Anonymous Secrets Find Life Online

Some are turning to the Web to anonymously voice their secrets.

May 5, 2009 — -- In an age when the Internet has made nearly everything public, even once deeply hidden secrets are surfacing en masse online.

No longer are some women seeking solace in the confessional booth or gossip sessions with close girlfriends. They are looking toward the infiniteness of the digital space to post their inner-most thoughts anonymously.

Women confess things like, "I told my boyfriend that I was on birth control but that was a lie and I ended up getting pregnant with our now 5-year-old child. I guess the interesting thing is I don't really know if I want to be a mother and honestly I don't think I am happy with my husband ironic huh? "

And Web sites like allow users to spill their guts online without identifying themselves.

And that's just what user Mechelle did on the site when she confessed, "My almost 21-year-old son I can't stand his girlfriend in fact I dislike her so much I have secretly text her pretending to be her ex-boyfriend."

Why Confess Online?

The 40-something Mechelle is a frequent visitor of the Experience Project. She often posts her own secrets and reads others' several times a week on the site, which went online in April 2007.

Mechelle is one of the site's 2 million monthly unique visitors.

For the northern California resident, who asked that her last name be withheld, the allure of sharing inner thoughts publicly is a release.

"I wanted to get it off my chest because it's kind of one of those grey and black areas you feel good but you feel a little kind of sneaky," Mechelle said of posting the secret about her son's relationship.

But according to some psychiatrists, revealing secrets can have a cathartic affect.

"Secrets can be erosive and I think if you hold onto things that are really preoccupying and are sitting heavily in your mind and body, they can take their toll," said Dr. Catherine Birndorf, a psychiatrist at New York Presbyterian Hospital.

Moms' Secrets Revealed

Confessing online even has reached the often catty, sometimes solitary world of motherhood. For some it offers a sort of lifeline to voice concerns and thoughts.

Romi Lassally founded as outlets for mothers. It bills itself as "your anonymous best friend."

"I created this place where women could come 24/7 in their pajamas," she said. "[It's like] cocktail with the girlfriends, girls' night out meets some good online — good group therapy."

The funniest and most provocative confessions anonymously written on the Web site were compiled into a new book called, "True Mom Confessions: Real Moms Get Real."

The book features confession about work-life balance: "I went back to work so I could yell at my coworkers instead of my son."

And it even has more intimate details: "I put on a baby DVD and plopped my son in front of the television so I could have sex. It wasn't with my husband."

But the problem with confessing online is the aftermath.

"When you open up the floodgates, sometimes you don't know exactly what's gonna happen. How you're gonna feel about having put it out there? What's the experience like afterward now that you've shared this?" Birndorf said. "There's no follow-up."

The Experience Project users desiring strict anonymity can use a first point of entry where they create screen-names that are not based on either their real names or traditional screen names used via other services, such as Instant Messengers.

In addition, Experience Project enables users to select from a variety of non-personal identifying avatars to build out their profiles, as well as allowing users to upload their own photos and images

Experience Project and True Mom Confessions founders said users self-police and they employ monitors who are constantly trolling for dangerous content.

And users like Mechelle said they find comfort in sharing information online.

"You always can find a different way of dealing with your problem if you learn from others and what they went through and how they have dealt with their problems," Mechelle said.