Have you ever told a complete stranger one of your darkest secrets? What about creating typographic art out of a personal confession? If either of these interest you then you need to know about Anna Ladd’s photo series and the site 7 Cups of Tea.
Let me catch you up to speed. Last week I joined 7 Cups of Tea, which anonymously and securely connects real people in one-on-one chat sessions. You join as either an "active listener" or if you are the one who needs to do the talking.
The site requires all listeners take an intro course of sorts, and after 20 minutes I was qualified to listen to anyone who appeared on the guest board. If anyone was in real danger (suicidal, self- harm, etc.) I was supposed to give them the number of an appropriate hotline rather than deal with it myself. The bulk of what I learned was how to reflect on what people say and show that you are genuinely listening and responding to what people are telling you.
So on Sunday night, after getting all certified, I found myself sucked into the site for almost five hours. I talked to many different people, sometimes three conversations at once. What hit me right away was the idea that this anonymous person was telling me something they had never told anyone else before. Those who said this upfront approached what they were saying as a taboo, even after I assured them that there was nothing wrong with their feelings. I hoped they would eventually realized that once they opened up to another person, they would be met with acceptance and a sense of community. We all experience feelings of isolation or loneliness at one point or another.
It was fascinating that after someone confessed his or her secret to me we formed an almost instant bond. 30 minutes ago we were total strangers, and now we were linked through an intimate one-sided sharing. In some cases they thanked me, and we logged off never to speak to each other again, after which I came to realize the magnitude of my role in their liberation. I was explaining this to my parents and all of a sudden I was bombarded with questions about which I had never really thought.
“I just don’t get why people would share their lives with you…” my mom quizzically stated. “Well it is all anonymous,” I tried to explain before my dad interrupted with his favorite phrase “there is no such thing as privacy on the Internet”. Okay, dad. This is a guy who will never understand why my real birthday is on my Facebook page, and even installed fake security cameras outside of our house. But I have to admit he sometimes makes valid points about my Internet privacy and safety.
My experience on 7 Cups of Tea, has helped me to really appreciate Anna Ladd’s series, “Things I told the internet, but didn’t tell my mom”. Where she stings together intimate truths that she chose to publicly share on the internet. She describes the photos as "a series examining the way that daily blogging for the last six years has changed my concept of privacy. Each phrase was directly taken from something that i posted online, but never talked about in person.”
We all need, as human beings to be a part of something, a group, a tribe, a whatever, and I think that there are real stigmas that make people feel like outsiders in the ‘real world’ while safe in whatever they deem their little corner of the internet. It is great that Ladd was able to share these feelings, but unfortunate truth that they are not always socially accepted IRL.
Images courtesy of Anna Ladd