Rob Manuel at Fesshole LivePaul Gilbey with permission for Varsity

When I’m running late, I report fake accidents on Google satnav. It’s surprising how much emptier the road is with people rerouting. No – you haven’t accidentally clicked on an article about unethical life hacks. Rather, this was posted by X account @Fesshole a few hours before I started writing this article.

The brainchild of career netizen Rob Manuel, Fesshole is where the public confesses their often appalling sins, guilt and opinions under the veil of anonymity. Its iconic black-and-white logo is a staple of the homepage of many UK-based X users, and the account recently surpassed one million followers.

Rob recalls that Fesshole was birthed by a conversation with a friend. “Using the internet 15 years ago, there was a real freedom about it,” he says. “There was only a few people using the internet at the time … your boss wasn’t reading it, your wife wasn’t reading it, your girlfriend wasn’t reading it. It had anonymity even though it wasn’t anonymous.”

One of Rob's favourite 'fesses'

Rob’s nostalgic friend struggled to find this freedom in the modern internet. No longer would people freely express their spontaneous thoughts and happenings without risking friendship, fame, or future employment. Indeed, Rob himself confesses (pun intended) to reviewing social media accounts of potential colleagues, as most employers do nowadays. So he saw the gap in the market for an anonymous confessions-based page, and the interest was “immediate”.

“Camfess has ‘got to be my influence’”

“The way I’ve chosen to run this project is largely for humour,” Rob says. Sometimes, the plausibility of these stories is challenged, but Rob explains that he is “asking people to submit the more extreme moments of their life”, so he “can’t knock out something that might only happen one in 10,000 times”. He does admit that it is possible that submitters “compete to be funny” – but since he can never ascertain the veracity of a story, he remains in blissful ignorance.

Rob didn’t foresee the page reaching such heights. He describes its success as something he “didn’t quite expect … like when you make a weird stew” and somehow “get a result out of it”. And its reach is ostensibly further than Rob even realised. When I likened Fesshole to Camfess and its equivalents at other universities (Oxfess, Brumfess, LeedsFess, etc), Rob claimed that the suffix -fess has “got to be my influence” because “nothing was called that before.” “I’m not saying I invented confessions,” he laughed, but maybe just “how it is abbreviated”.

Rob during the second half of the showPaul Gilbey with permission for Varsity

Rob has made a career out of internet-based entertainment. He has released the weekly b3ta newsletter since before I was born, and credits it as his first project that amassed some “fans and public recognition”. Crucially, it gives him the ability to launch a new project because he always has the “first 50 people to look at something”. The newsletter itself has a pleasingly under-designed look, which is “all about trying to make people enjoy the content”, rather than focus upon the formatting or design. “In 2001, when it launched, that was a retro look for a newsletter” – and it has not changed since.

“A commitment to entertaining via internet projects until I die”

When I ask what drives him to create in this way, Rob says that “as a teenager I was always making songs,” but that “there’s not that much demand in the world for another musician.” He was inspired by The KLF, a British electronic music duo famous for doing wacky and unique things, and recommended the book The Manual (How to Have a Number One the Easy Way), written by them. He called it “one of the most inspirational bits of text you can ever read”, and even sent me a full PDF of the book after our interview was over.


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For the first time, Rob is taking Fesshole on tour. Fesshole Live is a two-part show. The first half is “a stand-up show with slides where I’m going through the best stuff that’s already been published,” he said. The “second half is the audience confessions.” People with a ticket pre-submit confessions to a form that Rob sends out, with the option to stay anonymous. Rob goes through the best ones from people in the room, with often extraordinary or humourous results when two opposing, similar, or linked submissions are made from people in the same audience.

Fesshole Live is Rob’s current preoccupation – but afterwards, can we expect more projects from him? He gave me a resounding yes. As one of the “internet’s first influencers”, he tells me that he’s “made a commitment to entertaining via internet projects until I die”.

Rob Manuel’s tour show Fesshole Live visits Cambridge at the Arts Picturehouse on Wednesday 21 February at 8pm. You can get your tickets here.