Internet Feature: Grouphug.us

Chris Helsby 06/06/2005

I am drunk at work right now.

Not me - it's eleven in the morning and I'm sat at home, sober as a judge. This is my favourite confession from a website full of them -www.grouphug.us It sits alongside others such as 'my name is bret and I have no life except to stalk the girl and be depressed', 'I can't find anyone to sell me some weed' and 'I am the leader of the crips'.

The site is a simple idea - people write in confessing their deepest and darkest (or most embarrassing, most awkward, most amusing) secrets and they are posted up on a scrolling weblog-type thing which anyone can browse through. The confessor remains completely anonymous - their confession marked only by a randomly generated number.

You'll notice that the majority of confessions are related to love and/or sex and cover the whole panorama of the subject; from the angst-ridden teenage boy who worries about his first love to the thirty-something recalling being abused as a child. There are things that'll make you burst out laughing and things that go way beyond the laws of any nation. You can tell from the slang language used that confessions come from both sides of the Atlantic and the readership seems to be huge.

The important thing about the site, in terms of getting something off your chest, is that you aren't judged at all. This isn't like stepping into the confessions box in a church - you won't be given fifty Hail Marys for your sins. You post anonymously and that's that - maybe it just feels better to know that someone will read it and however they react, they can't respond.

The site itself is a very simple design - proving that no amount of flashy Flash and Java work will make up for having no content. There's no preamble to it; you log straight onto the main confessions page and scroll up and down as you wish. On the right of the screen are just a couple of links; one to a book of confessions that has been published and another to a podcast made by the designers.

This site is addictive - and very voyeuristic. It feels like you're reading someone's diary. Maybe, like in the movie Fight Club (with it's 'If this is your first time at Fight Club - you have to fight' rule) you should have to add at least one confession of your own before you can read any; maybe spectators shouldn't be allowed. But that's one of the important characteristics of it - there can't be many sites that are used in such dynamic ways. People offload deep feelings of guilt and embarrassment, things that have driven them close to suicide, and others use it to relieve boredom. If you ever get and e-mail from a friend saying they are bored at work just send them a link to this site - you won't hear from them again that day.

From shocking to amusing, empathic to atrocious, the confessions keep flooding in. They vary in length from a single sentence to a couple of paragraphs, with the shortest ones frequently conjuring-up stronger images and emotions than any others. Within ten seconds you'll go from laughing to crying - a whole range of human emotions within the space of a coffee break. From 'I confess that I no longer have faith in any single person' to 'I sometimes drink coffee in the morning instead of tea.'