Hey, What Do You Think of Me?

I have noticed that there is a trend of teens wanting to ask each other the question “What do you think of me?” in anonymous forums. We have seen this with a number of recent trends:

1. Facebook’s Honesty Box

The honesty box is an application that kids put on their profiles and friends are able to put in anonymous comments.

2. Formspring.me

Formspring.me, which we have covered in this blog before, is a website where users can post questions to other users and answer anonymously. You can also see one of our teen’s comments about Formspring.me.

3. Failin.gs

Failin.gs is a newer website where users answer the question: “What is wrong with me?” on their friends pages.

A quick search on this site revealed these horrifying comments on some teenager’s profiles:

“ura fat ass and u should stop eating cause ur 2 ugly.”

“no1 likes u even if u think ppl do, hahahahahaahaha. Its bc ur annoying in class and make stupid comments all the time. Ur not fuckin smart dude!”

These comments are devastating—to both adults and teens. When I ask my teen interns about these websites and applications, many admit to having a profile and finding the pull irresistible. One teen boy said, “I feel like I have to know what people think of me. It helps me know which category I fall into at school.” But when I asked him how awful it feels when he gets bad comments, he said, “It’s worth it to see the good comments and you get to know what people really think of you.” This obsession with knowing what other people think speaks to the larger trend of teens using the online world to figure out their own identity.

One of our teen writers said:

“Recently whenever I log on to my Facebook account, many status updates include the words “Ask me questions,” or “Go for it,” associated with the link formspring.me. Like many of my friends, I made the mistake of making a formspring. I thought that my friends or other people that wanted to get to know me better would ask me questions to get to know more about my life, such as what I like to do in my free time, and what my ideal job is, or questions such as those. In the beginning many people asked me NORMAL questions such as, where do I shop for clothes, what my favorite color is, and such. However, after a couple of days I started receiving negative comments about myself from anonymous people. Not questions, but negative comments people were posting anonymously. I thought I was the only one that was getting these negative comments, but then I went to other formspring pages that people had posted on their Facebook accounts, and saw even more drastic negativity people anonymously posted. I have seen very mean things on my own friend’s formspring accounts. Anonymous people will leave comments such as “You’re fat,” and “You’re a slut,” or “You’re ugly, I can’t believe you have a boyfriend.” I have seen even harsher comments than that.

In some cases, the anonymous comments people have posted on other people’s formspring accounts have gotten to such a derogatory level, that the person with the formspring account decided to disable their account. In addition, my friends have been the victims of negative comments and their confidence level has been lowered. Even though they shouldn’t have taken the comments to heart, it is hard not to think about yourself in a negative light after reading comment after comment from people that can be labeled as “Haters,” or people that put you down in order to feel better about themselves, or they are just mean in general.

I believe that formspring.me is an innocent outlet to get to know more about friends, but people, especially teenagers have taken advantage of this service and instead opted to post mean and hurtful anonymous comments about other people, or in some cases their own friends. This is leading to cyber bullying. Anonymously attacking another person’s self confidence and image over the internet is a form of bullying that is cruel and hurtful. It is everyone’s own personal choice to get a formspring, but I warn against it. Even though you can ignore hurtful comments and questions from other people, the person asking the question will see that you have not answered it and will keep sending you comments or questions to your inbox, which I have seen firsthand happen to my friends. If someone really wants to know more about you, they should ask you questions in person or try talking to you in person. And if people have hurtful and negative comments to say about someone else, but they are posting it anonymously, it just goes to show how immature they are because they use an innocent internet service to bully another person.”

It is important for us to talk to our teens about the difference between honesty and bullying. This is a type of digital self-harm. Like cutting, submitting questions to these websites is a way of inflicting pain on oneself. Where is that line drawn?

3 thoughts on “Hey, What Do You Think of Me?”

  1. I think we need to take a look at teaching youth to be media critical. And I mean from like the age of 10 or 11.

    The whole “what’s hot / what’s not” idea is a first step towards bullying behaviors and mean judgments. Once young people can identify with “this is what I want to aspire to (hot) and this is what should be avoided (not)” they learn to judge and condemn their peers. Recent media “queens” like loveable Paris and Nicole, and the whole concept of the “Mean Girls” are just examples of how accepted those types of attitudes are.

    YOUNG children need to be taught to HOLD ON to their good values. That saying something’s “HOT/NOT” is being JUDGMENTAL and EGOTISTICAL- and that is far worse than being “out or in.” See; many bullies think they’re just honest (maybe brutally) but they’re not ‘wrong.’ They need to learn that the judgments are wrong and that by not being understanding, they are being some sort of bully.

    ACCEPTANCE and UNDERSTANDING must be taught THROUGH critical thinking so that young people may understand that something so basic to our media as BRANDING is by it’s very nature, designed to separate and re-class the society into ‘have’s and have-nots.’ Getting into basics such as “fat-ugly-slut” – well, it starts somewhere right?

  2. I know that it’s probably being picky and critical of me, but I have to ask… Why is it that it’s assumed that the anonymous posters are teens? You don’t have to know the person to post something on their page, and it’s completely anonymous. There is nothing to say that these people are teenagers, except that the owners of the pages are teenagers themselves. I’ve learned through experience that teenagers are very far from the only immature ones out there.

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