EXCLUSIVE: We spoke to the Camfess admins, and the tea was scalding

One Camfession even sparked a yellow misinformation warning from the Zuck

Content note: discussion of mental health, coronavirus pandemic

“The Camfess Admins are not quantifiable, but more of an abstract concept with a Facebook page.” You might have passed one of them in the street, made cheeky eye contact with them in Mainsburys, or even have them as a supo partner (particularly if you’re a Natsci, apparently). Camfess admins are some of the biggest names on campus, and yet are still (almost) completely anonymous. 

Referring to themselves only as Long Island Iced Tea, Chai Latte, Fireball, Hummus, Guacamole and Beans, the Camfess admins bared all in an exclusive interview with the Cambridge Tab. They spoke all things memes and mental health, wholesome to controversial, and even gave us some clues as to their true identities…

‘My degree has fallen by the wayside, and I have turned my back on my loved ones’

So, is being an admin a big job? “When lockdown was first announced we were getting >200 [posts] per day, but now it’s settled a bit it’s down to around 100” says Guacamole. 

It appears to be as all-consuming a vocation as you choose it to be, with Fireball explaining “I rise each day at dawn, to prepare my body and mind for another day of Camfess moderation. I drink nothing but the salty tears of angry commenters. I dine on freshly killed memes. I no longer remember my life before this – the enthusiastic, hopeful young student I once was died long ago.

“My degree has fallen by the wayside, and I have turned my back on my loved ones. There is no room for weakness, no room for mercy. I am a streamlined, ruthless moderating machine and I have sworn my devotion to this page until I give my dying breath.”

Long Island chimes in with “I am gracefully a normal Cambridge student but I spend 10mins going through posts a couple of evenings a week (hopefully when sober).”

Ever noticed the occasional bizarre post timings on Camfess? This can be attributed to Chai Latte, who says: “ I guess when I can’t sleep I let through a whole lot more, hence sentiments like #Camfession14316. Sometimes I’m just nocturnal.”

‘I am an administrator of Camfess – that is my identity, and nothing more’

When interrogated about their identities, the admins were expectedly enigmatic. Although one common factor is allegedly sexiness:  Hummus tells us they are “ like unbelievably sexy. Think of the sexiest person you’ve ever seen – I’m even sexier than them”, while Beans says “I’m sexier than hummus, and maybe also a NatSci.”

The hints that we got didn’t really point towards anyone in particular, though Guacamole was generous enough to indulge us with “I’m a height below seven foot but above five foot, I have arms and a face, and I attend Cambridge. Oh and I definitely do maths – that narrows it down hopefully x” 

We didn’t even find out how many admins there are, with answers ranging from “zero to the nearest 100”, “At least one”, and a direction back to #Camfession14294:

Though if you’re friends with one of the admins, it’s not so unlikely that you’re going to find out who they are. Although Guacamole, Long Island Iced Tea, Chai Latte and Hummus have admitted to confiding in their close friends, Fireball said:

“It is a secret I shall take to my grave…. It is only when I am sat before my computer, reading, approving and deleting, that I feel truly alive. This is who I am now. Perhaps it is who I have always been.”

‘It really feels like a dynamic, relevant space for all Cambridge students, and I just love the way it is’

We also asked the admins about their favourite types of Camfession (yes, that’s the correct terminology!) and the answers were as wide-ranging as, well, Camfess itself. Chai Latte notes that while “Toope memes (a truly inexplicable phenomenon and unstoppable force) and Girton-bashing can become pretty repetitive” – there goes The Tab’s commissions list for the rest of term – they “can never get bored of shitposts, rick rolls and making things up for April Fools or HMRC tax scams.” Guacamole similarly “subsist[s]’ on shitposts, and they also really enjoy the debate on the ‘more *edgy* and ‘hot take’ posts.”

Chai went on to tell us their least favourite Camfession: “The single least favourite Camfession ever was the one that said blue VKs were the cure for the current pandemic, which earned us a yellow violation from Mr. Zuckerburg for misinformation. I want OP to know this.” Yikes.

‘Where else can our students openly voice and debate such concerns?’

On a more serious note, if your ‘hot take’ is instead simply bigoted, or hateful, then Camfess is not the place for you. Guacamole later adds that they “try not to give bigoted posts a platform – someone’s existence and characteristics are not up for debate in the comments.” Although the admins all agree that Camfess is a valuable space for discussion, there is a clear difference between having a rational debate and exploiting it as a platform for hate. 

Chai Latte describes how “If the people decide that Camfess is where they want to have this conversation, I have no good reason to deny them, as long as it remains relevant to students’ interests and Cambridge life. After all, where else can our students openly voice and debate such concerns?”

It is in the spirit of such debate that the admins do not (in the majority of cases) censor comments. Although “hateful” ones may be deleted, Chai Latte also says: “I believe once people have put their name by their comment, they can and should bear responsibility for their speech and accept that they may be challenged about them.”

‘What makes me particularly sad is how we are collectively getting used to new norms and to a general state of suffering’

The pandemic has brought its own unique challenges to the ‘Cambridge experience’, and students have taken to Camfess to share concerns about exams, the workload, safety nets and, particularly prominently, mental health. Guacamole describes how “In my time as admin, posts have always been reflective of current events. … Certainly the pandemic has been the most intense on the mental health front”, and scrolling through Camfess it’s hard to miss the number of posts headlined with “content note: mental health.” 

The Camfess admins are in a position to know more about the student body’s mental health than most. Chai Latte adds: “We cannot highlight any more how deeply many, many students are suffering so much from all sorts of incredibly difficult personal circumstances in the UK and internationally, [and are] unable to seek meaningful help”, saying that this is “on top of the existential anxiety, isolation, lack of motivation, missed opportunities, helplessness and frustration that we all seem to be feeling.

“We are not in a position to ask for anything but we do question whether colleges genuinely and uniformly appreciate how terrible a place many students are in at the moment. What makes me particularly sad is how we are collectively getting used to new norms and to a general state of suffering that pervades the uncanny sense of normality that more submissions have been reverting to lately.”

All the admins agree, though, that Camfess as an outlet for these thoughts and feelings is a positive thing, in part because of the response of the student body. Beans said: “I’ve always found it reassuring to see that others are going through the same struggles we are. The shouting into the void is even better when the void (comments section) shouts back with kind words and advice.”

And the Cambridge student community are proving themselves to be just that: almost every post asking for help or advice is met with comments or even subsequent Camfessions offering that very support. Chai Latte notes that ‘We are always, always grateful for those who take the time to leave a reply or a point of contact: students, supervisors, fellows, alumni and even parents. We are incredibly grateful for the recent Student Minds initiative to make sure as few as possible Mental Health posts are left unanswered.”

The Camfess admins are themselves human – perhaps with the exception of Fireball – and Chai Latte wanted to “mention with thanks the submissions that ask us if we’re ok, which we rarely let through. But as humans, we honestly sometimes get so jaded and desensitised to the excitement and significance of it all and these messages can be just that little bit uplifting. When we don’t post for long stretches, it’s because we need rest from the negativity, and no number of extra admins can help the page persist through stressful times.”

‘The comfort and relief that it appears to provide to some users, no matter how few, is all that I ever hoped it would be’

Fireball looks back on the history of Camfess, and says: “The evolution thus far warms my heart. From entertaining people, to providing a space through which people can share humour, advice and empathy, and thereafter to qualifying as a fertility doctor, obtaining a restaurant licence to serve pho and finally a swimming pool & hot tub service, it feels as though I have lived many lifetimes already, and I am so glad that the wonderful members of the Cambridge student body were with us the entire way. The comfort and relief that it appears to provide to some users, no matter how few, is all that I ever hoped it would be.”

Chai Latte adds that “right from Camfess’s inception we have been open minded regarding its role. Over time, Camfess has meant different things to you and to us, and as a representation of the collective’s minds (to steal Guacamole’s phrase).”

“(At the) end of the day we are here for ALL students and the wider community, and as the vocal, articulate and varied Cambridge community adapts to drastically different vibes and events, we hope that a healthy balance remains without us having to intentionally promote particular types of content.”

On behalf of the Cambridge community, Camfess, we salute you for the service and platform you continue to provide the student body in their hour of need (or hour of meme). Oh, and thanks for all the Tab content inspo.

Feature image credit: screenshot from YouTube and Camfess logo

All other image credits to Camfess.