I arranged a Zoom interview for Monday with UCD Confessions the exact day that Instagram went down. Understandably he didn’t trust me enough to give me a phone number or Snapchat, which caused a few issues when half of social media just stopped working for a few hours.
The next day when the chaos had subsided, we started the interview and I immediately noticed that although his camera was off, his Zoom avatar that took up half my screen was a photo of him. So much for trying to be secretive.
UCD Confessions is a pretty chill guy. You’d have to be, to read through the massive amount of weird anonymous confessions posts from the students of the country’s biggest university.
He’s dedicated quite a bit of time to curating and posting these confessions on his Instagram.
“I made the account right when I started First Year in 2017, so it’s been a while. As soon as I got to UCD I decided to start it up. There weren’t other accounts that I could use as a blueprint but I wanted to know if other people were having the same college experience as me, and I guess they did. A lot of people in UCD think like me.”
Surprisingly he runs this account of 14,000 followers single handedly. In my past experiences I had seen far smaller communities run by entire teams of admins, normally with the original creator doing almost none of the day to day work.
“Well, I didn’t trust anyone else to run the account. It’s been me since day one. I only was able to give it proper time when the pandemic hit because I had nothing else to do so I posted way more consistently. I could do it everyday and the page grew way quicker. Before I’d post really sporadically like once a week or once a month,” he explains.
Was it hard to get a consistent way of running things in the early days? I notice that you’ve used a few colour schemes over the years, but now every post has a mint green background.
“It was a bit difficult at first, but I’m glad that I’ve mixed things up and tried improving on the earlier design. I used to do the UCD colours, dark blue, light blue and green across all my posts but I realised that people are there to read funny shit and not critique the colour palette. I used to post in all caps too but someone complained that in all the posts it read like someone was shouting.”
It’s good to know that you’re taking student feedback into consideration I guess, if they complain enough.
“Yeah, it has to be a bit of a democracy sometimes,” he laughs.
I ask him about the time it takes to post on his own every single day (except for when Instagram just refuses to work).
“I get about 150 confessions every day and when I’m having dinner I read them and pick my favourites, anything that makes me laugh or I think ‘wow that’s weird’ I copy and paste them into Photoshop and post them. It takes like half an hour everyday. It’s always at dinner time because I can’t do it in front of other people, on campus or anything, in case somebody sees. It’s a routine because if I don’t post ones everyday I’ll get a lot less the next day.”
“I have to choose the order of them too and do it in a logical way. It can’t just be the best 10 that I saw that day, it has to be the funniest first so that everyone sees that one and then I can’t put two ‘rail mes’ back to back, I gotta spread them around so it’s not too repetitive,” he says with the wisdom and experience of someone that knows what they’re talking about.
What he calls ‘rail me confessions’ are a kind of flirty missed connections post where people will gush about the hotness of a man on campus. ‘The brown haired guy working in Centra, if you’re reading this please me rail me’ – that type of thing. A modern day Shakespearean love poem.
“I’m in student accommodation too and I literally put the blinds down or sit in the very corner so nobody living there catches a glimpse of my laptop open and realises I’m the UCD Confessions guy. If a few people know they’ll tell a few people and then the mystery is gone, and that’s one of my favourite parts of the whole thing.”
In fact only one person in UCD, aside from himself, knows the secret of who runs the account.
“One friend knows because I had to have someone to tell about it otherwise I’d go crazy or get bored if I couldn’t talk to anybody about what it’s like. I don’t plan on letting anybody else know. I became close friends with someone who responded to a post I made years ago about people who played sports. I told him eventually because it felt strange that our friendship had this unusual beginning that he didn’t even know about. But he’s graduated since so it’s back to just one other student knowing.”
What are the weirder kinds of posts you get? In my college we have a full genre of posts from people that heard or saw people having sex in random bathroom around campus. Is there a UCD equivalent?
“We get that a lot too,” he laughs.
“People always say that it happens in the Newman bathrooms because they’re in like a basement so it’d kind of make sense for people to do it there. But I get so many of those submissions that I’m kinda desensitised to them now – there’s no point posting the same stuff over and over.”
I joke that it takes a lot more to impress him these days, considering some of the messed up secrets he’s been reading about for so many years.
He agrees that it does take some pretty wild stuff to shake him. The account has a rule against hate speech and giving away personal details – the bare minimum requirement for him to even consider posting your submission is that you have to be a decent human being, he says.
So do people DM you trying to ask you for advice?
“That happens all the time. I have over 99 message requests right now, normally its first years looking for advice or international students that don’t know much about Dublin. I try to respond but I can’t get back to everyone. I have people that I’m kinda friends with that I interact with from the page that aren’t even in my class and I’ll just see them around. That’s the weirdest thing, I’d consider them friends but if I walked up to them in real life on campus they’d have no idea who I was.
Once my friend from real life bragged to me that his submission had made it to ‘the first one.’ I put up like 10 submissions in a single Instagram post and the first one you see is the best one. So he was like ‘I bet you’ve never had a submission make it to the number one position,’ and that was so ironic to me.”
That’s so strange. Do you ever hang around campus and just look around at the hundreds of strangers and maybe focus on one random person and think ‘That guy could be the person from last week who wrote in to me about puking in his housemates fish tank?’
UCDConfessions got a good laugh out of that.
“Well it definitely makes me look at my fellow students differently. During Covid there was almost no one on campus but the library was still open so I would go there and all of the rail me confessions would be about guys in the library,” he recalls.
“I’d recognise men from the submissions like ‘woah that’s the guy in the red hoodie that someone posted about yesterday.’ Then you think about how the person who posted it is probably in the library looking at him every day and could be like sitting right over there at this very moment.”
If you’re so careful about people knowing that you run the account then I’d assume that you probably don’t plan to use it as a chat-up line when the clubs reopen?
“Ah no way,” he laughs. “It’s too legendary.”
I’m met with silence when I ask if I could maybe use it as a chat-up line instead.
The fact that this guy started the account in 2017 means he’s gotta be the student equivalent of a pensioner. I decide to bring up this uncomfortable fact.
What happens when you graduate next year? Who takes over the account, do you have like an apprentice?
“It’s tough, I’m not sure. What makes the page so popular and good is the time and consistency I give to it. So there’s no way that most people will bother to put 30 minutes every single day for multiple years into the running of this account. I don’t want it to go downhill after me, it’s a decision I’ll have to work out in the future. But I get lots of people DMing me asking if they can take over.”
And what’s been the highlight of your years running the account?
“My answer to that changes all the time. My first big moment was in the very early days when my friends from real life started following the page and I felt like it was the start of it gaining momentum. It felt like a big achievement. The goals keep growing now, I had 1,000 as my big milestone and then 5,000 and then 10,000. Last year I had the SU reach out to me to encourage more people to vote in student elections. I’m meeting someone from the SU soon to talk about some things because they’ve realised that I have a bigger online presence than them. The idea that I have that much clout is crazy because I still remember the early days,” he said wistfully.
I tried searching you on Twitter just to reach out to you and I saw a Twitter account called ‘RIP UCD Confessions.’ Is that you?
“No, those were people copying my exact name and bio. It was a ripoff! It started during the pandemic and I didn’t post anything to distance myself from them. I was already far bigger so I didn’t want to give them attention by calling them out. They even copied the exact same emojis from my Instagram bio. Like they coulda changed it up, at least a bit. I get that they wanted to try and do the same thing as what I was doing but why did they have to fully copy my whole brand too and make it look like we were one and the same?!” he questions.
I can barely imagine what it would be like to dedicate so much time to growing a community for 4 years only for people to pretend to be you, try and ride off your following and then give up after they didn’t get instant success. The idea that UCD Confessions only had one person that he could vent his frustration to without giving away his identity sounds pretty rough.
Just to round things off, do you have any interesting followers?
“There’s actually several lecturers that like my account. There was one meme I had making fun of the President of UCD where I accused him of corporate greed and several professors liked it because they were annoyed at him for some changes to UCD. I got such a laugh out of that,” he said slyly.
“There’s a confession I got the other week from someone saying they’re 35 and that they graduated years ago. He told me he has 2 kids now but he still follows the account and reads every confession. I get a lot of those. There are UCD students on exchange in Canada or the US that say they check the page every day and that it’s their main source of news from back home.”
That’s a pretty large and diverse community that a first year kid in 2017 started.
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