Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Sara Green, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Donileen Loseke, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Byron Miller, Ph.D.


Confession, Digital Media, Personal Narrative, Qualitative, Sociology of Emotion


Where do you go to divulge your deepest secrets? Some may turn to journals and diaries; some turn to family and friends; some turn to religious confessionals; some turn to Twitter; and still, some take their secrets to the grave. There is at least one other way people share their secrets that has thus far received limited scholarly attention: the crowdsourced confessional. In the new media landscape, intimate stories and personal disclosures with strangers can be (and are) produced as content for a vast pool of additional strangers to consume as media. Yet, little is known about the personal narratives shared on and by crowdsourced confessionals or how they relate to cultural norms of emotion.

This study builds on social constructionist perspectives of emotion. It is situated in interdisciplinary scholarly conversations about personal narrative, digital media, and contemporary practices of confession in the new media landscape. Using methods of document narrative analysis and drawing on data from a popular crowdsourced confessional project, Hey Stranger, I examine how, when stitched together, the personal narrative fragments featured on Hey Stranger contribute to more significant cultural understandings of emotion, of confession, and how contemporary ideals of selfhood are constructed through confessional storytelling. These findings shed light on the complexity of emotional experience and the mixed media, flexible nature of confessional storytelling. The emergent themes of this study include novel insights into what sociologists know about lived emotions and contemporary cultural practices of confession. The findings support the claim that crowdsourced confessionals can render many invisible aspects of human experience visible, thereby creating new resources for people’s cultural toolkits and creating new opportunities for innovative social research.

Included in

Sociology Commons