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Internet becoming a place for confessions

A postcard posted on PostSecret’s website Aug. 31 appeared to confess a murder.  Credit: Courtesy of PostSecret

A postcard posted on PostSecret’s website Aug. 31 appeared to confess a murder.
Credit: Courtesy of PostSecret

The video of Matthew Cordle confessing he killed a man while drunk driving has gripped the nation. With more than 2.1 million views on YouTube, the Columbus man’s video was the first confession video for the non-profit Ohio organization “Because I Said I Would.”

BISIW’s purpose is to restore the faith in humanity by making people accountable by staying true to their word and keeping promises, said Grant Smucker, the director who filmed the Cordle confession video. Smucker, an Ohio State graduate in biomedical engineering who now works as a freelance director and editor, has also filmed previous videos for BISIW.

“After hearing the cause and everything, I was on board,” said Smucker. “It sounded like a great cause.”

Cordle pleaded guilty to aggravated vehicular homicide in court Wednesday.

Smucker said Cordle’s desire to confess was sincere and aimed at shedding light on the issue of drinking and driving.

“(While) filming it, Matt wanted to get the point across to make sure people don’t drink and drive,” said Smucker. “It was Matt pouring out his story and what all happened, what went down and expressing his guilt. He had a lot of guilt to let out. He wanted a way to release that.”

Some OSU students who have heard about Cordle’s confession video have conflicting opinions.

“I’m kind of glad his conscience got the best of him, although online wasn’t the way to do it,” said Becca Lawrence, a third-year in international studies.

Some said it was a stunt for attention.

“I appreciate that he did admit to it, but I feel like if you were going to (admit to it), just fess up,” said Haley Maynard, a second-year in early childhood education. “(It’s an) attention thing that has alternative motives.”

Although some students, like second-year in sociology David Powers, hadn’t seen the video, they heard about it through friends and the media.

Something that stood out to Powers was Cordle’s courage and honesty, but he said he feels there is “a lack of interpersonal community” when posting on social media.

“I’d like to be optimistic and say that… I choose to be hopeful and believe his desire is genuine,” Powers said. “But a lot of people said he did it for attention.”

Recently, some Internet users have taken to posting secrets anonymously and publicly through sites such as PostSecret, Whisper and Reddit’s OffMyChest forum.

According to PostSecret’s website, more than 629 million people have visited the blog. The blog is part of “an ongoing community art project where people mail in their secrets anonymously on one side of a homemade postcard,” according to the website.

On Aug. 31, PostSecret posted a postcard reading “I said she dumped me, but really I dumped her (body).” There was an arrow on the card pointing at a location on a picture of a map, later identified by Reddit users as a spot in Chicago. Authorities later said they had found no reason to believe there was truth to the apparent murder confession, according to CBS News.

On June 20, someone posted a confession titled “I should be in prison” on a forum on Reddit, a social news sharing site. The post went into detail about the man and his friend allegedly raping two minor girls. Though police became involved, the case disappeared and the two men got away without legal repercussions, according to Gawker.

Lawrence said he believes anonymity is meaningless when admitting a wrong.

“Posting anonymous just to do it seems pointless,” she said. “There should be more action. If you are truly interested in confessing, you should do something to follow through.”

Smucker agreed after his project with Cordle.

“I don’t see the point of hiding it or concealing it,” Smucker said. “The best outcome is when you just lay it out in front of everybody. Come public with it so you can get it off your chest, then other people can help you and learn from it.”

Maynard said, though, even if posting anonymously, people want their stories to be noticed.

“It’s all for attention rather than just feeling bad about what they did,” she said.

Whisper, a smartphone app similar in concept to PostSecret, tries to bring people together. The app description states it is “about expressing your true self within a community of honesty and acceptance” and individuals “can connect with other people who think and feel the same way (they) do about things.”

Making a community out of struggles is an idea Maynard found interesting.

“It’s more of a supportive thing rather than admitting,” Maynard said.

Maynard said if she were put in Cordle’s shoes, she would not have made the YouTube video but would have turned herself in.

“I would be too guilty,” Maynard said. “I would have to talk to the authorities or someone close to me.”

The possibility of a reduced prison sentence could be a reason why more confession videos are being made, Smucker said.

“A lot of people are saying confession videos are going to be a big thing because people can maybe reduce their sentence or try and get a better sentence,” Smucker said.

Powers said he wouldn’t resort to confessing on social media either.

“In my life, I have people I can trust (to talk to),” Powers said. “They would get so much more by talking to an actual person.”

Smucker said he believes the attention of the YouTube video will force people to see the results of drinking and driving.

“Matt’s laying it all on the line. He wants to admit what he did wrong and he’s not trying to hide it or hide behind anything,” Smucker said. “He wants people to know how serious this issue is and for them to not make the same mistake.”

One comment

  1. “Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.” – C.S. Lewis and others.

    Mr. Cordle did not display any integrity in his actions, but it is commendable that he finally did the right thing. If it took this sort of public handwringing to yield a proper result, so be it.

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