Features

Here's the Ugly Truth Behind Your School's Online Secret Files

Because targeting someone anonymously is never okay.
IMAGE Unsplash ART Clare Magno

As avid social media users, each of us has probably stumbled upon online Secret Files—accounts where people can anonymously submit their long rants or love confessions. Submissions are reviewed by the page's admins before being released into cyberspace, with each post holding a semblance of gossip about a specific person. Their identities are kept secret, being signed by a pseudonym and the submitter's strand/course and batch.

Several universities, like Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU), De La Salle University (DLSU), University of the Philippines (UP), University of Sto. Tomas (UST), and more have their own version of Secret Files pages on Facebook. High schools like Xavier School, Immaculate Conception Academy, Miriam College, La Salle Greenhills, etc. have not only Facebook but Instagram, too—although most are defunct by now.

While some posts are innocuous shoutouts, others chronicle personal matters, publish photos taken without consent, ship people together, and even call out certain students they don't like. Recently, an incident has made a certain Secret Files page come under fire, when a male student openly insulted a female student in a series of degenerative expletives, leading to the victim retaliating with her friends online as well. Stallion, the official student publication of Xavier School, took notice of this and these pages.

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"Although initially the ICA-XS Secret Files was meant for entertainment purposes, it slowly degenerated into a cesspool of cyber bullying. Due to the fact that forms of cyber bullying were enacted by them, the site in which people would discuss their so-called 'OTPs' turned into a hate forum for certain individuals," John Young, Features Editor of Stallion, said. "In the end, it seems better for the pages to be shut down, rather than allowing them to continue like this, as being under a guise of anonymity leads to a general abuse of freedom of speech, which in turn has a negative outcome on the general well-being of others."

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It's easy to fail at realizing what a huge problem this is. For one thing, people by nature love to gossip. To see some anonymous online drama and reading its juicy details probably adds some spice to our mundane everyday lives. It's understandable why we find entertainment in reading about X's crush on blank or Y's blatant hatred for blank. However, failing to see the issue is where the trouble lies.

It's understandable why we find entertainment in reading about X's crush on blank or Y's blatant hatred for blank. However, failing to see the issue is where the trouble lies.

See, these so-called Secret Files may seem like innocent and harmless outlets at first, maybe even a place where someone can vent or express their emotions while amusing others. But we are forgetting that in this digital age, everything is permanent. Whatever gets posted on those pages will end up haunting us forever.

First, Secret Files allows people to target others. While only the initials of the person of topic are revealed usually, there are occasions when the full name is included in the post. Whoever is called out will probably attract a lot of attention—and not in a good way. Sometimes, even photos are included—published without consent. Thus, Secret Files is an invasion of privacy. It's bad enough if someone announces to the world that they have a crush on you. What if that person explicitly explains why they hate you so much?

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This brings us to the next problem: Secret Files leads to rumor-spreading, with false statements or personal secrets circulating online within mere seconds. Someone could get seriously hurt, regardless of whether or not they really did those things specified in the post. It's physically and psychologically harmful to the target's well-being. In short, Secret Files can be cause for libel.

Secret Files also ruins people's relationships. Imagine being paired up or shipped with one of your friends, with pictures of you published without your permission. Not funny, right? What if you were accused of doing something wrong, with some misleading photos thrown into the mix? Not cool, either. Furthermore, the thrill of posting anonymously lends blind courage on the part of others. People nursing secret hurts or holding old grudges may feel like getting revenge—whether they deserve it or not. This leads us to the final problem of Secret Files: It's cyber bullying, plain and simple.

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The thrill of posting anonymously lends blind courage on the part of others. People nursing secret hurts or holding old grudges may feel like getting revenge—whether they deserve it or not. 

Gone are the days when cyber bullying was merely rude comments or chats with one of your Facebook friends. Now, you can't just report or block whoever violates netiquette. Sure, you can try having certain posts taken down—but by that time, it'll be too late. Everyone would have already seen it. The damage would be done. Actions like these are detrimental to the well-being of others. While some seem like they can just brush it off, remember that you never know who's actually struggling or hurting on the inside.

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While Secret Files can be indeed successful in disseminating important information at times, for the most part, they're also harmful, dishonest, and invasive. The guise of anonymity makes people abuse their freedom of speech and do things that they usually won't do—and that certainly spells trouble for the general well-being and mental health of others. It's best to report these outlets that promote hurtful behavior by shutting them down for our own good before more people become victims of its toxic cycle of hatred and cyber bullying.

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Caitlin Anne Young
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