I was a big fan of Newfess. I loved submitting and commenting on the page. It was my favourite way to waste time, constantly refreshing, trying to find a post I hadn’t seen yet. Sometimes the posts would make me laugh or smile, other times it would make me concerned, or outraged even.
But we loved our Newfess. We loved how it gave everyone an equal opportunity to be heard, share our experiences, and listen to other people’s experiences too. It provided a platform for debate, display the entire spectrum of political opinions. It gave us a chance to express our views no matter what they were. Voices were listened to from all sorts of perspectives. Newfess gave us the freedom to share what we thought. The anonymity meant we were free from judgement. It meant we could find solidarity in our views without drawing attention to ourselves.
Newfess gave us a space to seek help or encouragement. It gave people the opportunity to ask thousands of students about mental health services or what shop sold the best vibrator. It gave people too scared to put themselves forward a chance to be heard. Newfess gave Newcastle University a heart, a community. It was a place of love.
But also hate. Lots and lots of hate. No group was free from anonymous attacks and judgement. People’s secrets and embarrassment was publicised. People were tagged and shamed. Without responsibility, privacy and trust were decimated.
It was exclusionary. Thousands of followers, tens of commenters. The persistent hornyposting became dominant on the page, isolating those who aren’t as sexually active or don’t identify as the ‘typical’ sexualities that were represented on the page, as well as several faith groups who feel excluded by attitudes towards casual sex.Also, inciting violence should be a boundary when it comes to free speech.
Newfess, why? A community that started as a platform for debate and encouragement and the occasional Robbo love story should never have become so toxic. What used to be positive and an injection of diversity into the opinions on campus became something that had to go. Newfess had to be destroyed – an inevitable tragedy that had to come.
And now, in a post-Newfess age, there is a lack of trust. Our platform has been dismantled, our anonymity stripped. How else were we ever supposed to be honest?
Featured Image: Newfess
Last modified: 18th March 2020