Robert Saler writes of the questions raised by a “…  recent post in the Chronicle of Higher Education in which a professor blames social media for the fact that, in his view, current generations of college students share overly intimate details of their lives without discretion. As he puts it, “In this Facebook age, young people expect everyone to be a ‘friend’ who is willing to accept whatever they ‘post'”—be it online or in the middle of a crowded classroom.

Regardless of the extent to which one agrees with this sort of cultural diagnosis, it does give rise to thought about how the practice of “confession”—sharing private details—has changed. Indeed, religious leaders will call to mind the fact that, until relatively recently, it was religion that provided a formal, ritualized space for such confession. Even Christian traditions that do not have a “confessional” per se, or any formal practice of individual confession, nonetheless still privilege the pastor-parishioner relationship as one which often is defined by confidential (albeit one-way) disclosure—of sins, of private doubts, of life events deemed too intimate to be shared within the public sphere.

Visit “Oversharing:” The new confessional? to see the questions this  article raises.

The Rev. Dr. Robert Saler is a Research Fellow and administrator with the Center for Pastoral Excellence at Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis. 

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