It’s 6 a.m. on a Monday and Jeanette Ramirez, 21, just woke up. She reaches for her cell phone and opens her FMyLife application to read the latest posts.
Throughout her day, Ramirez checks her phone every couple of hours to view the latest posts on the Internet site where users can anonymously post embarrassing, unfortunate and humiliating moments. She has read FMyLife posts so often that now, she feels like she’s read them all.
“Yes, I know I’m addicted. It’s the first thing I do when I wake up,” she said. “It’s part of the routine now.”
Ramirez is an avid FMyLife reader and is always surprised at the posts she reads, which also cheer her up. She reads things she never thought about and is concerned that someday, something might happen to her.
“After reading them, I think, ‘Okay, I’m not that bad, I should stop complaining,’” she said. “It makes me feel like I’m part of a small community.”
Ramirez is an art major at Los Angeles Mission College and has two jobs, one as a personal assistant and the other as an after school playground worker. She rarely gets to sleep in.
Because of her hectic schedule, Ramirez often has “f*** my life” moments that give her the urge to tell someone what’s stressing her out.
Rosio Gonzalez decided to share her story on FMyLife. In a couple sentences users share their moments with the world, who can comment or vote whether they deserved what happened to them: “You totally deserved it,” or “I agree, your life sucks.”
However, these websites aren’t just outlets for people to post their moments anonymously. They are also places for readers to learn from others’ mistakes, relate to embarrassing moments or simply be entertained.
“I think it’s cool that people are allowed to vent and not be worried about other people, like on Facebook. I know people who post stuff about sports, for example, and it creates animosity between friends,” Gonzalez said.
Anecdotes posted on the website begin with “Today” and end with “FML,” an abbreviation for “f*** my life.” According to the creators of the website, the anecdotes users post are likely to happen to anyone and are aimed to be funny.
Other websites similar to FMyLife, like My Biggest Regret Ever and ConfessionPost, also offer users the need to confess or relieve their biggest regrets anonymously. On each site, the subjects of posts range from health, money, sex, kids, work and love. These websites encourage users to share their experiences with their slogans, like FMyLife’s “Get the guts to spill the beans” or My Biggest Regret Ever’s “Share your biggest regret. Don’t make the same mistakes as others.”
Richard Gilbert, professor of psychology at Loyola Marymount University, said people feel comfortable disclosing their secrets anonymously on the Internet due to something he identified as “cyber inhibition,” which is when people are more likely to be less diplomatic about what they share online.
“There’s no social consequence,” Gilbert said. “You don’t even have to post your actual name. I think people reveal themselves because they want to be known, they want to confess.”
But why do people prefer to share their embarrassing stories, regrets, or confessions on the Internet for the world to read, instead of privately confronting the person or people that they are about?
Gilbert said it is because FMyLife has challenged the ways people used to share information and relieve their feelings.
“(FMyLife) gives (people) another outlet,” Gilbert said. “In the past, you had talking to people face-to-face; you had journals or diaries. Websites are in between personal and private revelations.”
According to Alexa Internet, a web traffic reporting website, the United States boasts the highest international percentage, approximately 48 percent, of readers and posters to the FMyLife website. In second place is the United Kingdom with about 6 percent, and third is India with about 5.8 percent.
On the evening afterschool playground at Bassett Elementary School, Brittney Herrera, 23, slipped her cell phone into her pocket. She glanced across the almost empty schoolyard to make sure her students were playing in their designated areas.
“I discovered FML through my best friend who was helping me with my new phone that I couldn’t work at the time,” she said.
Herrera, an afterschool playground supervisor, upgraded to a smart phone early February and wasn’t familiar with any interesting applications. That’s when she turned to her best friend Stephanie for help.
“She asked me if I enjoyed reading,” Herrera said. “She said ‘There’s this application called FML and people post their embarrassing moments.’ So she downloaded it for me and I started reading it.”
Herrera reads FMyLife because she thinks it’s interesting, funny and entertaining.
“Plus, it makes me feel better like crazy things don’t only happen to me,” she added.
The FMyLife application makes it easily accessible for users and readers to read stories, comment, or vote “I agree, your life sucks,” or “You totally deserved it,” on anecdotes.
However, Herrera only votes on anecdotes that catch her attention and she doesn’t like to leave comments.
“It’s not for me to judge,” she said. “I’m sure they’ve heard enough so I stick with just voting.”
Posters can be spared from excessive cruelty because comments are moderated. On the other hand, such comments can also create a collective conversation among advice givers, providing the opportunity for readers and posters to learn from one another.
According to Gilbert, people can learn about the difference of opinions and relate to other people’s problems by reading the websites’ comments.
“It gives some solace; they can get some help for their issues,” he said. “If other people are having problems, it can certainly make your life less negative by reading the misfortunes of others.”
Although FMyLife aims to offer humorous anecdotes, entries found on sites like My Biggest Regret Ever and ConfessionPost tend to be more serious. What would happen if somebody posted an incriminating regret or confession?
Jens Koepke, professor of media law at CSUN, said websites wouldn’t be responsible for criminal liability.
If an individual posts an incriminating act, they only bring themselves a step closer to being caught.
According to Gilbert, FMyLife, My Biggest Regret Ever and ConfessionPost have become new platforms for the human need to confess in a digital form.
Perhaps for people like Ramirez, these websites have also become ways to remember that life isn’t so bad after all. Still, Ramirez never posts anything on FMyLife.
Once, she was close to registering for an account, but had second thoughts when asked for personal information.
“I didn’t want to make that commitment. Maybe one day I will,” Ramirez said.