Online confessions: the Web bares its soul

Fabricated sex stories, girlfriend rants, coworker pouts, and angry threats. Take our guided tour of the Internet's sins and secrets.

E-Admit: Give Them a Piece of Your Mind

Getting a new iPhone? Guard it better than this guy did, or you may risk denunciation by someone with a similar combination of nosiness and moral outrage:

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E-Admit has a hard- to-read interface, but it's an interesting site to visit because many confessors post quick polls beneath their emotional posts. This allows the Abigail Van Burens and Ann Landers among you to offer them some guidance on their predicament. How would you vote here?

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You can also send an E-Admit confession writer a private e-mail message if the writer chose that option when he or she registered. Frankly, that sounds dangerous to me. I can only imagine what kind of comments you'd get from people who don't have to identify themselves. (Inquisitive nutjobs like me keep their opinions to themselves!)

E-Admit updates the page once a day and thoughtfully provides a countdown to the refresh, so you'll know at once when a fresh crop of whiners is due to appear.

JoeApology.com

You know you blew the special birthday surprise you had planned because you dilly-dallied and missed your chance to pick up a limited-edition Darth Vader Potato Head. So why not clear the air about it?

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JoeApology.com takes a different tack in dealing with people's guilty feelings. Its concentration, of course, is on the apology, which can be to anyone about anything and with any degree of genuine contrition, as the following example demonstrates:

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The site asks: "Are you feeling sorry about something you did? Do you want to get something off your chest? Go on, tell me about it...and remember, it's completely anonymous. Just post your apology, no matter how big or small, and you'll feel so much better. I promise."

I hope that the "feel so much better" promise came true for the person who posted this next item, because their significant other has probably left them by now:

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PostSecret: Confession as Art

Perhaps the most famous site in this genre is PostSecret, which treats your admissions and confessions as pieces of art. The site claims to have had more than 24 million visitors.

Unlike some of the other confession sites, PostSecret is not about instant gratification for participants. Instead, they have to create or doctor up a postcard and snail-mail it to the site's founder, Frank Warren. Per site guidelines, the secret must be true and it must be something that the teller has never revealed to another person. Here's an example:

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A pretty good American rock and roll band, the All-American Rejects--used the PostSecret concept to good advantage in the video for their song "Dirty Little Secret."

Only the entries that the site's proprietor choses get posted online (the selection changes weekly). However, you can view hundreds of past posted secrets, and at a third site you can view secrets that didn't make it to the main site.

If you'd like to get involved, send your confessional art piece to PostSecret, 13345 Copper Ridge Road, Germantown, Maryland 20874. You have a chance for fame if you do: PostSecret has published several books anthologizing past entries.

Another possibility is to see some of these confessional art pieces up close. PostSecret organizes traveling exhibitions of its postcards at art galleries around the country, including current displays at the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse, New York, the Hillyer Art Space in Washington D.C., the Miami-Dade Public Library in Miami, Florida, and the Yellowstone Art Museum in Billings, Montanas. Check before you go to make sure that the exhibit is still on and to see whether others have been scheduled at locations closer to you.

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Anne B. McDonald

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