The Internet As A Public Private Space

How long will this kind of anonymity last? And how helpful (and legitimate) is the catharsis? Intimate Confessions Pour Out on Church’s Web Site

About a month ago, LifeChurch, an evangelical network with nine locations and based in Edmond, Okla., set up mysecret.tv as a forum for people to confess anonymously on the Internet.

The LifeChurch founder, the Rev. Craig Groeschel, said that after 16 years in the ministry he knew that the smiles and eager handshakes that greeted him each week often masked a lot of pain. But the accounts of anguish and guilt that have poured into mysecret.tv have stunned him, Mr. Groeschel said, and affirmed his belief in the need for confession.

“We confess to God for forgiveness but to each other for healing,” Mr. Groeschel said. “Secrets isolate you, and keep you away from God, from those people closest to you.”

[…] The Internet already offers many places to confess, from the dry menu of sins at www.absolution-online.com to the raunchy exhibitionism at sites like www.confessionjunkie.com and www.grouphug.us. It is impossible to know whether these stories, like much on the Internet, are sincere or pure fiction.

One of the best-known sites is postsecret.blogspot.com, an extension of an art project in which people write their secrets on postcards and mail them to an address in Germantown, Md.

Mysecret.tv may be singular because it gives people at LifeChurch an easy opportunity to act on the sermons, said Scott L. Thumma, professor of the sociology of religion at the Hartford Institute for Religion Research.

[…] “There’s no magic in confessing on a Web site,” Mr. Groeschel said. “My biggest fear is that someone would think that and would go on with life. This is just Step 1.”