Behind the scenes of quarantine confessions

NYU’s class of 2024 has found a sense of community in the unlikeliest of places — an anonymous Instagram confessions page.

A+first-year+NYU+student+created+an+anonymous+Instagram+confessions+page%2C+%40nyuquarantineconf%2C+during+the+Fall+2020+semester+quarantine.+This+confessions+page+has+allowed+NYU%E2%80%99s+Class+of+2024+to+find+a+sense+of+community+in+an+unlikely+time.+%28Staff+Illustration+by+Susan+Behrends+Valenzuela%29

Susan Behrends Valenzuela

A first-year NYU student created an anonymous Instagram confessions page, @nyuquarantineconf, during the Fall 2020 semester quarantine. This confessions page has allowed NYU’s Class of 2024 to find a sense of community in an unlikely time. (Staff Illustration by Susan Behrends Valenzuela)

By Natalie Melendez, Staff Writer

Any first-year student who found themselves quarantined in their NYU dorm room last fall surely remembers the rush of adrenaline that came from refreshing their Instagram feed and seeing a new batch of quarantine confessions from @nyuquarantineconf, a page where NYU students can submit anonymous confessions through a Google form.

Gallatin first-year Sofia Lopez Arredondo created the account on the first day of the Fall 2020 semester quarantine. It grew out of a mixture of boredom, excitement and nervousness.

“I had been talking to a lot of people before coming [to NYU].” Lopez said. “But I remember just feeling like, ‘Oh it’s too soon to tell some of these people what I’m thinking right now. I don’t want to burn those bridges just yet.’ So I was like, you know what would be kind of fun as a last quarantine project? Just starting a confessions page.”

Within days, @nyuquarantineconf became a sensation among the class of 2024. Users would submit confessions about their experiences in quarantine, feud over which first-year residence hall they thought was best, voice insecurities and try to find love, among other more questionable confessions.

According to Lopez, the account was only meant to last through that first 14-day quarantine — after which it took a hiatus.

“We told the account and story that we just wanted it to be a quarantine thing,” Lopez said. “But then I was put in a second quarantine because one of my friends got COVID. I was bored to death. So … we revived [@nyuquarantineconf] again.”

Since its revival, the account has only grown in popularity — at press time, it had over 1,600 followers and over 4,400 posted confessions. With an overwhelming amount of new confessions, Lopez scouted out new admins. That’s where Steinhardt first-year Maggie Sonenshine and Tisch first-year Jack Ventimilia came into the picture. 

With two more admins, the account began running at a more consistent pace. Admins now take turns posting screenshots of the submitted confessions in batches of 30 to 40 and listen to participants’ concerns in order to protect their privacy.

“We don’t post confessions that could potentially be triggering for individuals,” Sonenshine said. “No solicitation. [For] confessions that call people out by name, we check with the [mentioned] person first. And if someone DMs us and says, ‘Hey this confession makes me uncomfortable’ or whatever we’ll take it down out of respect for them.”  

Regardless, the admins have just as much fun posting confessions as they do reading them. They each have their own signature emoji which they use to sign off their captions — most of which are just as hilarious as the confessions themselves. When followers see the distinct emojis, they immediately know which admin is on posting duty.

“I chose the prawn,” Ventimilia said. “It’s really so not interesting, but I just thought it was a weird little guy. It looks super cute! There’s no hidden significance behind it…But it’s fun to be walking around campus sometimes and [have people say], ‘Oh you’re the prawn on the @nyuquarantineconf page!’”

But perhaps the most exciting part of the account — for both admins and followers — is the confessions’ complete anonymity. It gives students a new sense of boldness and paves the way for amusingly uncensored thoughts.

“People are drawn to saying ridiculous things on the account and seeing other people say ridiculous things,” Tisch first-year Matt Zhang, one of the newest additions to the admin team, said. “That’s part of the fun too. It’s almost like an elevated, characterized version of our community where the things that are funniest are the things that you probably don’t actually mean or say in real life.”

Given the strange nature of the published confessions, it’s no surprise that the admins have encountered similarly bizarre situations behind the scenes. 

“People DMing us and offering to show us their tax returns to prove that they’re not rich, asking us to take down a confession [is one of the funniest things to happen], ” Lopez said with a laugh. “[Once] some guy sent us their phone number. We normally don’t post phone numbers and things like that, but that one slipped and we just posted it. A couple of weeks later he was like, ‘Oh yeah, thank you for posting my number. I hooked up with a guy through that.”

The admins, who are currently backlogged by over a thousand confessions, also occasionally face criticism from impatient confessors. 

“People can be so annoying,” Ventimilia said jokingly. “They say, ‘You don’t post enough,’ or, ‘Lazy admins, you need more.’ And when you post too much they’re like, ‘You’re flooding my feed! What are you doing?’”

Some critics have gone so far as to submit personal attacks against the admins, but they mostly just laugh it off.

“We’re just college students running an Instagram confession page,” Sonenshine said in response to the criticism. “The stakes could be higher!” 

Now well into the second semester, the account continues to foster a strong sense of community for first-years.

“I say this kind of jokingly but also kind of unironically: I think the account is one of those things that is holding NYU together,” Zhang said. “I think there is a certain sense of community that comes with being able to laugh at the same notoriously dumb or absurd [confessions].” 

This communal spirit is precisely what CAS first-year Karissa Chang — another new admin, making for a total of five — loves about helping run the account.

“Being able to interact with everyone, whether it be in the comments or in our story [is the best part],” Chang said. “We can really get a glimpse into all of these people’s lives, and it’s nuts! I don’t have to put much effort into doing so. Like I just post something on the story and all of these people will respond. And I don’t even know them, but they still give input into whatever we want to know from them. It’s pretty cool.”

As we embark on the last half of the Spring 2021 semester, the future of the confessions account remains unclear. 

“Maybe after COVID ends I don’t know if we’re still going to have [the account] running, but I hope so,” Lopez said. “It would be really nice if at some point when we all graduate we can have some underclassmen take over and [start] letting other admins in from other classes. I know that we have quite a bit of [Class of] 2025 people starting to follow us, so that’s exciting.”

Despite its uncertain future, the account’s nonsensical confessions and its contribution to a growing sense of unity are sure to stand the test of time.