Story by Tamara Rawson & Josh Arnett
President Kim B. Clark spoke about the Facebook page “BYU-I Secrets,” saying the anonymous posting of confessions and complaints goes against key principles of the gospel. The question was one of several he responded to during the President’s Q & A on March 14.
According to the page’s description, BYU-I Secrets’ purpose is to give people a way to anonymously voice opinions “about Idaho.”
People have used the site to share personal habits, ask questions and criticize university and city leaders without having their names attached to the “confession.”
“Send your secrets in as messages, and we will post them anonymously to the wall for you,” according to BYU-I Secrets. “Nothing illegal, just what you really feel but don’t feel safe saying out loud.”
President Clark said the feeling of anonymity causes people to act differently than they would otherwise.
“You’re basically saying, ‘I am not actually myself.’ You begin to deny your own identity,” President Clark said. “It’s contrary to the Lord’s plan.”
While many students have used the page to complain about roommates and other students or to share stories, some have used it to confess actions that violate BYU-Idaho’s Honor Code and the doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
President Clark said confessing sins anonymously and publicly distances people from God.
“An important part of repentance is confession, and so to use that sacred activity in public in an inappropriate way is a travesty of great significance,” President Clark said.
President Clark said students should know they’re never truly anonymous.
“First of all, the people running the site know who you are. Second, Facebook knows who you are,” President Clark said. “If you’re on a site like this and you act in such a way or claim certain things happened that are illegal, that becomes subject to discovery processes by law enforcement.”
President Clark also said no one is anonymous to the Lord.
“He knows what you’re doing,” President Clark said. “It’s just a really, really bad idea.”
President Clark said a separate and smaller issue with the page is its use of BYU-I’s trademark by using its name. He said the university will pursue appropriate action to address any trademark violation.
Some said they thought this meant the university planned to take legal action against the page. Merv Brown, the university communications director, said this is not the case.
“The fact that these sites use the name BYU-I or BYU-Idaho is the concern,” Brown said. “The university cares about its students. It also cares about its trademarks and its good name, so we would just want to protect the name and trademark of the university.”
The page’s creator has changed the page’s “about” section to explain that “BYU-I Secrets” stands for “Bring Your Unusual Idaho Secrets.” The page’s name has not been changed.
BYU-I Secrets is not the only page that uses the university’s name and asks people to post confessions anonymously.
There are at least two similar Facebook pages that use BYU-Idaho’s name and at least one for BYU.
Other universities across the country have similar pages that are based on “secrets” and “confessions.”
There are also pages for students who oppose the “BYU-I Secrets” page and other pages like it.