The Badger meets with the founder of Sussex Secret Admirers, the Facebook page that allows you to reveal your deepest secrets, crushes and stories anonymously.
Q: How much can you tell me about the site and about its founders?
A: Well, Sussex Tell Him, Tell Her [a rumors Facebook page] came actually first and then I saw another University do Secret Admirers and I thought, wow, it’s taking off pretty quickly! I’ll start one for Sussex. Originally it was just between us friends and then it sizzled out and grew into the admirer page.
Q: Do you know who started Sussex Tell Him, Tell Her?
A: I did. And when Sussex Secret Admirers went live, I just wrote a post telling everyone on the older page that this was the new one.
Q: Clearly Sussex Secret Admirers is one of the most viewed pages here at Sussex, everyone kind of secretly hopes they can be on it. Do you ever get people that post about themselves?
A: Yeah! It has happened. Sometimes I go ahead and post it, sometimes I just tell them to get a life.
Q: So you answer people?
A: Yeah, sometimes I do, if I have time. I mean, if it’s just for a confidence boost, then I’ll post it, but if it’s something elaborate and weird, then I won’t. Although there was a stage when I was calling people out about it, but then I didn’t want to victimize people.
Q: You have a really fun job though! [founder laughs] You know everything people are too scared to say out loud. How do you feel about that? Do you ever recognize these people that post? Can you pinpoint them in lectures, on campus or at the bars?
A: In the past years it was more enjoyable because the posts were mostly about students you knew. Now it’s more of a first year thing and it’s not people you know but it’s still fun, it’s kind of nice of having the knowledge.
Q: Let’s talk about the creepers…
A: Yeah… there are some… weird people. Persistent posters that send in really odd stuff.
Q: Do you ever tell them to go away?
A: Not really, they just get ignored.
Q: Tell me the worst post you’ve ever received and if there is any topic you won’t post in particular.
A: There was this one poster that sent something in about her friend having an abortion. I’m not going to post that. That’s way too far. I’m not going to post anything that will potentially ruin someone’s life. If it’s a rumor that’s too intense I won’t bother with it. Also, some rumors are better when they just describe the person without actually naming it, it’s better because it remains ambiguous. If it’s persistent victimization of someone I’m not going to do it. I get asked a lot to take things down, especially with the Tell Her, Tell Him page. People who are looking for jobs ask me to take stuff down so it doesn’t appear on Google search or something. And I obviously don’t want to ruin people’s job prospects, so I ask them to comment on it so it arrives to the top of my news feed and I take it down right away.
Q: There was that one picture of Will Saunders, the president of UKIP society at Sussex, it was of his ass crack and it received many notes. Maybe if it had been someone else, visitors would have had a very different reaction to it.
A: I don’t monitor the comments, I read them occasionally and rarely do I remove them, unless they are completely out of order. I suppose it was on the fringes of going too far, and it had been a girl, I wouldn’t have posted it. Although there was one post that sparked a massive feminist debate a while ago, I can’t remember which one it was. It was interesting to watch.
Q: I think it’s a very interesting mirror of society here at Sussex. People always have this conception that Sussex is super left wing and super feminist and super this and that but in reality you see these posts and realize what people don’t want to say out loud and it’s controversial.
A: Exactly, it’s funny how much people will post that I know they would never say it out loud. Although, I would say that most of the times it is friends posting about other friends, so one of your girlfriends would write something to make you think someone was interested in you. A lot of the times, it’s not a boy to girl thing, it’s just something to spark up some excitement in a friendship group.
Q: Anonymity is crucial for your job, and you’re doing it so well. Who knows that it’s you?
A: Maybe six or seven people, all my close friends.
Q: Is there a way to get involved in this? What happens when you leave Sussex?
A: I don’t know actually… because it’s directly linked to my Facebook so if someone else were to run it, they would need all my log in details … it would have to be someone I really trust. I have had people try to buy the page.
Q: Has there ever been anything about you? Has someone ever said, “I fancy [name]” and it’s been you?
A: Nope. Only early on, when I was in halls and the whole concept kicked off, there were rumors flying around. But then it grew and it involved many other people.
Q: More recently there was a post very creepily taken, I believe it was a girl sitting on the bus and it got so many notes and likes. How do you feel about those things?
A: Well, I don’t know if it’s an infringement of privacy. Maybe it is. If she contacted me directly I would have taken it down right away of course, but in my opinion if it’s just a picture of someone on a bus sitting down and it’s not revealing or harmful, there’s not much wrong with it.
Q: Have you gotten revealing or harmful pictures?
A: Yeah, there have been a couple but they get deleted and ignored completely. I’m sure it breaks the law.
Q: You are literally the secret keeper of Sussex! People really trust this whole concept of anonymous posting without realizing that there is someone behind the screen.
A: It just shows that the secret is never really going to get on. Not many people know who writes the posts about them.
Q: Is there anything you want to tell the admirers or receiver’s of admiration?
A: [laughs] Just don’t take stuff too seriously. People can get so upset and it’s just stupid. And don’t wait for a post to be about you… There are people who persistently write, though. There’s a group of three boys who used to write almost every week, they would all tag each other the second the post would go on. People can get vicious, the rumors like “this guy slept with that girl” where only a few people would know… it gets bad because then you think, which of my friends can’t I trust?
Q: I noticed it’s not just a creepy admirer page, people report stolen phones and cards and such, and you’re doing a service to the community from that perspective, right?
A: Yeah, I always put that stuff up. It actually works, it reaches everyone or at least many people and they’re bound to tag the person that has lost it.
Q: Have there ever been any posts written from someone you know?
A: Never any of my closest friends, but friends of friends, sure! And I’ve seen them write some pretty nasty things…
Q: Does that change your perception of them?
A: Mmh… not really, it’s not my place to judge. Although, it is interesting to see how people will just stab someone else in the back just for a couple laughs. A lot of people from Sports teams tend to write in, particularly [a sport].
Q: I noticed some of the same people tend to comment a lot of stuff, it’s odd because this group always comment the same person!
A: [Laughs] Yeah! I know. It’s for laughs I guess.
Q: Does it get annoying?
A: Nah, I don’t get notifications directly. Thankfully. Although, there was a really funny one about the guy that passed out on the girl’s floor, she didn’t even know him… it got like 700 likes.
Q: I remember on that famous picture of the girl on the train you commented on behalf of her on the actual picture whilst it was blowing up with enraged people defending her. I’m assuming she asked you to write that comment, something along the lines of “I’m so glad I go to Sussex with girls like you.”
A: Yeah, I mean if someone wants me to defend him or her I will obviously. If they’re feeling bad I don’t want them to feel like they’re being bullied, ever.
Q: It was a great reflection of who we are here and I’m glad it got so many notes and that you wrote on behalf of her without having to reveal her identity. After this year, what’s going to happen to the page?
A: I actually haven’t thought about it at all, I hope it can continue, although it would have to be a new account and it would have to grow… it takes a while. It’s pretty impressive it’s still going on.
Q: It’s also pretty impressive people don’t know who you are.
A: [laughs] I know! I’m just this normal person from Sussex who came up with the idea first.
Q: A lot of posts are also really nice posts, like thank you posts are pretty common on your page!
A: Yeah, lots of people thanking the strangers that helped them get into a cab or fended off a creepy guy and what not. It’s really nice to see.
Q: Well, that’s all I’ve got. Anything else you want to tell us?
A: Just keep admiring!