Online Confessional

Just in time for Holy Week, there’s an article on CNN today that discusses the increasingly common practice of unburdening one’s soul online rather than in a face-to-face meeting with a spiritual confessor.

Most of the confessions are being anonymously posted to sites that are set up for just that purpose. The sites make the confessions publicly available for others to read, and in many cases to comment upon. It’s the voyeuristic attraction of readers of the sites among other issues that raise concerns.

According to the article:

“Confession 2.0 is a place where anonymity is a substitute for privacy and the intimacy traditionally experienced by talking to a priest, therapist or friend is replaced by a virtual community of strangers. Among the Web site managers CNN spoke with, none has professional counselors monitoring confessions.

‘This is a new genre of confession,’ said Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Sherry Turkle, who has researched cyber relationships and interviewed people who post confessions online.

‘They have said to me, ‘This is where hope is for me.’ They think they can find on these sites some kind of goodness that eludes them in real life.’

But people who seek something more than their words on a Web site are often disappointed, said Turkle, who’s also a psychologist. Most sites do not invite or allow responses to messages, although allows posters to vote ‘hug’ or ‘shrug’ in response to confessions.

‘Some responses are empathetic and kind; others aren’t so nice,’ Turkle said. ‘The expectation of what you can get out of these sites far exceeds what some ultimately get, and that, in its own way, can be harmful.’

‘What these sites say to me is what are we are increasingly missing in our lives: a sense of community and real, tangible connection with other people,’ Turkle said.”

Additionally the sites do not offer sacramental absolution for those persons seeking it; and there’s no chance for the penitent to receive helpful counsel from his or her confessor.

Read the rest here.

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