Today I came across this article on CNN about the existence of confession websites and drop in the amount of people going to confession and if there's a connection between the 2 or not. I have a number of thoughts on this from a technical, social and spiritual point of view.
Before I launch into the post I think I need to share a secret. I have 2 blogs this one which is a personal tech / geek / photography blog and this one which is more of a blog on my thoughts on religion and life. The religion blog is still a work in progress where I am moving some things over from a paper journal to the digital realm. The reason I mention this is that I intent to cross post this and no matter who you are you're going to see a different side of me; something you might not be comfortable with. For a minute I thought about 2 separate posts, one on the tech and one on the religion but I think this is better presented this way.
To me, the important part of confession is giving a voice to the thing we've done and the counseling we receive from the process. Let's face it, confessing to G_d is easy, He knows what's in our hearts, He doesn't need the someone else in the process to forgive you. It's the sinner that needs the counsel, strength and support of another human being which is the reason why confession is important.
While I was still regularly attending a Catholic Church (though last December) I noticed that the number of people going to confession had dropped but this is a process that has been happening for a while. The CNN article doesn't discuss other methods of Confession people have been using. As psychiatry and psychology have become more main stream (sorry scientologists), people have been receiving the the human side of forgiveness from other sources. I believe that people are more likely using these sources then some website.
Every now and then I take a look at the "confession" account on twitter (http://twitter.com/confession). I don't follow it, mostly because a lot of it is NSFW and I don't want that popping up when people stop by my desk. Where it's an interesting experiment in social graffiti I'm not sure there's much confession going on there. Currently there's a message on there "I killed the president" (Hi Mr NSA agent, really that's a quote not a threat), there tends to be a ton of angsty "I still love her" type stuff, and the occasional confession of something outrageous involving rape or murder. It seems to be a source of drama and shock then anything else.
I would like to discuss the difference between privacy and anonymity for a bit. In a confessional booth and a therapist's office there is a moral and ethical responsibility to keep the information inside the room. Although you don't leave your name on these confession sites, the server may log your IP address and other identifying information. There have been a number of cases where anonymized data has been tracked back to the source including netflix and AOL search data.