BY MARYNA ADSHADE
Since their first post during the height of the pandemic last year, the Instagram page Maties Confessions (@ogmatiesconfessions) has become known for their anonymous confessions about Stellenbosch University (SU) students, their crushes, struggles, and any other university-related experiences.
The page’s bio sums the page up as one that is “proudly blocked by sujustkidding [another meme page aimed at SU students]” and that is run “by the Maties, for the Maties”. Also in the bio are three emojis (a fairy, a clown and a chef), that represent the three anonymous SU students who are the admins of the page.
The first admin, who is represented by the fairy emoji, felt motivated to start the page when she discovered similar Instagram pages aimed at students from other South African universities, but could not find an active one for SU students. “I saw that a lot of universities, like UCT [the University of Cape Town] for example, had confessions pages. I saw a recommendation for a Stellenbosch one, but then the link didn’t work to make an actual confession and the page was completely empty. So I thought ‘Okay this one’s defunct so let me start my own one,’” she explained.
She further felt that “people just needed something to get their frustration out, whether it be for academics or the lockdown, or just the entire pandemic in general. [The admins] found it was a really good way for people to vent whatever they felt like they needed to vent.”
The second admin, who is represented by the clown emoji, said he became an admin after the first admin asked him to promote the page on another account he runs that had a bigger following at the time. “I told her that I would if I could see some of the confessions. She gave me the login details and from then on I started helping out. I thought it’d be rude not to with the level of access she gave me,” he explained.
Due to a pile-up of confessions that have not yet been posted, the third admin, who is represented by the chef emoji, started helping out in the past few weeks. “I became an admin through nepotism essentially. I am very close with the admin who uses the fairy emoji and I’ve been privy to a lot of what goes on behind the scenes of ogmaties for a while now,” they explained.
“As soon as the other admins started saying things like ‘Oh the confessions are really piling up,’ I basically offered myself up as free labour,” she said. “I came on a few weeks ago, and I’m still learning the ropes but really enjoying it.”
With regard to their goal for Maties Confessions, Fairy summed it up as follows: “Just building as diverse and as loyal…a follower base as possible would be great. And just keeping that space free, keeping it open, keeping the conversation going, and keeping people feeling comfortable with sharing their things with us. And just really being there for them.
“When I started the page, my main aim was to create a free, open space for people to voice their opinion seeing as everyone had so much to say. All of a sudden we weren’t going to classes anymore, we weren’t seeing the people we used to see, and we weren’t having that student experience,” she explained. “We just found that it was very important for us to have a no-block policy and to post as many of the confessions as we saw fit and the most relevant ones possible. We don’t delete comments and we don’t silence anyone’s opinion, at least not on purpose and not with an agenda.”
On deciding what to post from all of the confessions, Clown said, “We like to post confessions where people confess to their crush. It gets a lot of people talking and tagging each other in the comments. We also like to post confessions asking for advice that isn’t readily available online, like asking about degree options at Stellenbosch for example.”
Chef urged followers to submit things other than “thirst confessions” though. “We know you want so-and-so to spit in your mouth,” she said. “As entertaining as the romantic kind can be, I think there are a lot of stories going unheard that might be very entertaining.”
Confessions that do not get posted are those asking for information that is readily available online, those that some people may find traumatic, and those that disparage people. Other topics that are usually avoided are those related to alcoholism, domestic abuse and mental health struggles; confessions accusing people of illegal activity, harassment, bullying, sexual abuse and of spreading sexually transmitted infections are also deleted.
Clown explained, “What separates us from other pages is our very narrow follower demographic, consisting of mainly Stellenbosch University students. Our followers have the in-depth knowledge of Stellenbosch student life and they can help each other out on our page.”
Fairy added that they mostly do not post confessions that condone illegal activities. “Sometimes we do it if it’s funny and we know it will get a good reaction out of our followers. But if it has to do with drug abuse for example, we usually won’t post it.”
“Some of the crush confessions are just a bit lewd. We usually then ask the person, if there’s someone mentioned in the crush confession and we can track them down, [if they] are comfortable with us posting [the confession],” she explained.
For those who would like to see their confessions about their crushes appear on the page, Chef advises that they be creative, more specific and more original with their submissions. “If you’re going to be vague about the person, have a good tagline. There have been 400 ‘have my children’ or ‘bend me over’ submissions. We need more diversity,” they said. “Be respectfully specific about the person. Even name drop if you can. That’s fantastic! That’s what we’re looking for.”
Those who have been mentioned in confessions and are curious about who sent them in, might be disappointed to hear that not even the admins of the page know who confesses what. “We’ve had some people ask [who sent in confessions about them], but unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on whom you ask, all confessions are entirely anonymous,” said Clown.
Regarding their estimated number of confession submissions per week, Fairy said, “At its highest point I was averaging about 20–50 confessions a day, which would account for about 100 or more a week. But I think a more accurate average per week would probably be about 50–100, sometimes even less.”
“As far as the process goes, there isn’t really one,” she continued. The admins do not have specific roles and they try to split the work evenly. “There is no set schedule for when we do things because we all study things. We all have quite different timetables. When one can’t post the other one can.”
Kia Mouton, a third-year BA (Humanities) student, said that she follows the page because she finds the confessions funny. While she relates to some of them, she feels that others show some people’s lack of self-control. “It’s crazy to see what people get up to,” she added.
The worst confession, according to Mouton, is one that was posted on 21 June last year that reads: “I had 20 minutes left of my online exam and I suddenly became *****, so I took a wank in my sock while double-checking my answers, best orgasm of my life.”
Mouton said that she has sent in a confession, but not a serious one. Regarding how it made her feel seeing it posted, she said, “It definitely made me make up my mind about the topic I talked about. Sometimes the best advice comes from strangers. I was giddy when I saw my confession.”
The page may also have some advantages for tutors and lecturers. Jean-Marie Potgieter, who is busy with her PhD in Theoretical Syntax while lecturing and being a second-year tutor for the department of general linguistics and the department of Afrikaans and Dutch, has been mentioned in a few crush confessions and said the following: “I was quite surprised when someone shared the post with me. I wasn’t aware of the Instagram page and I definitely didn’t expect to see a confession about me!
“It’s nice to be seen as a human being and not just as someone who conveys information. One of the perks of being mentioned in more than one confession is that it helps me to see myself and my good qualities through the eyes of others.”
While some might agree that the page’s content is funny, the page is not for everyone. “I followed it at first, but then stopped [because] it doesn’t add to my feed. The stuff that comes up sometimes is also only worth mentioning when it is not anonymous and until then, it feels like an intrusion is being made on people, as names and residences are blatantly mentioned,” explained Pierré Müller, a fourth-year LLB student.
“Not that I’ve been the subject [of a confession], but I wouldn’t like it if attention [were] drawn to me in that way,” he expanded. “[The page] says a lot, but also nothing really. It’s very tongue-in-cheek sometimes, but just not for me.”Chef concluded by saying, “The way y’all behave behind the veil of anonymity is absolutely frightening and fascinating. I wish there [were] a way to share some of the confessions we can’t ethically post, but perhaps we’ll be releasing a few things with names blurred out soon just because of the sheer entertainment value.”