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  • Phoebe Robertson

The Man Behind The Meaningful

Confessed by Phoebe Roberston (she/her), Big Mike (he/him)

Our meeting was locked in for a warm and sunny Wednesday morning. I knew two details about his appearance: the color of his shirt, and the cut of his hair. It felt like a scene from a spy movie, coordinating a secret meeting through DMs on Facebook. As I approached the man behind the VuW: Meaningful Confessions Facebook account (let's call him Big Mike*) I couldn't shake the feeling of being a secret agent. Should I have worn a wire? Would that be something a better journalist would do? Maybe I should have opted for an exposé instead of agreeing to meet. But here I am, flashing a smile and saying hello to Big Mike, the mastermind steering the VuW Confessions page. 

We settle into our seats at The Lab, and I discover that Big Mike has been running the VuW Confessions page solo since 2019. However, he wasn't the one who initiated it—he joined in early 2019 when there was a call out for admins on the page. While many came and went, Big Mike stuck around and has been the sole owner and admin for three years now.

When I ask about his reasons for joining and persisting as the page's manager, he tells me that quitting is not in his nature. When the opportunity came up to be an admin for the confessions page, he seized it. He also had ulterior motives: he had submitted a confession about a girl that he desperately wanted to delete before the previous admins could see and potentially publish it. Witnessing the joy people get from the page is what keeps him going. 

But as we keep talking, I realize that Big Mike's motivations go beyond just wanting to be part of student culture at Te Herenga Waka. He genuinely manages the page with the intention of giving students a voice and something to laugh or chuckle about—two values that Salient also strives for. Through running the page, he has learned that students don't feel comfortable approaching the university. In fact, a majority of the 1,500 complaints currently sitting unpublished in his inbox are related to students having general questions about the university.

He is constantly bombarded with questions: where to find buildings, who to talk to about changing classes, and concerns about lectures. One prime example of this is the Victoria University of Wellington Law Students Society (VUWLSS)—Big Mike has had years of complaints about their events (such as their ball) and other issues that he is unable to address. Instead, he advises these individuals to reach out to their class representatives, lecturers, and head of faculty for resolution. He emphasizes the need for better communication between the university and its students.

I figure this is a good opportunity to ask Big Mike some tough questions. While he claims that his motivation for the confessions page is to create a positive space for students, I point out that not all of the submissions are positive. Big Mike explains that the page aims to reflect what students are actually talking about on campus—he wants to hear what is being discussed in the library. Life as a student isn't always easy or happy, and it's important to provide a platform for those who feel disaffected or unhappy with their experiences. If only positive content was published, it would not accurately represent the student voice. (Big Mike apologizes to the 2022 Law President because he believes he allowed too many negative submissions to be published about him).

Big Mike, who has been reading freshers' confessions for the past five years, shares with me a cyclical pattern he has noticed in the submissions. At the start of the year, many struggle to make friends; six weeks in, people are feeling down; and by the end of the year, they regret not reaching out more or talking to someone they were interested in. He reassures me that most people are just as awkward as I am and have similar goals of making friends. As first-years, we shouldn't feel pressured to act like adults; it's okay to make mistakes. And as long as we're not actively pushing people away, we will eventually make friends since everyone else desires the same thing—friendship and connection.

I expected a casual and somewhat unproductive chat with Big Mike, who admitted to trolling Vic Deals before he was banned and became the head of the confessions page. However, our conversation delved into the shortcomings of Te Herenga Waka in supporting its students, and how Big Mike is trying to make a difference. When I asked him for any last advice, he said to take advantage of all opportunities during the first year, because there's no harm in asking out someone cute you've only known for two weeks. He also reminded me to practice safe sex and get regular STI tests, as there is typically an increase in confessions about first-years and STIs after the first month of classes.


*Names have been changed.


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