Recently, a new Facebook page was launched titled “RHS Compliments,” allowing students to leave anonymous compliments for other students for a good portion of the school to see.
The idea started in a Canadian university, and many colleges and high schools across the globe have since made pages of their own.
It is well-intentioned: Students are publicly complimented, creating an atmosphere of kindness and positivity. However, I’m not completely sold on the idea of a compliments page, mainly because it is on the Internet, a very public and oftentimes risky place.
To me, there’s something strange about the principle of a compliments page. All compliments are sent anonymously, allowing for the sender to hide behind the mask of the computer screen. I would be flattered if someone was to post a compliment about me on the page; however, I think I ultimately would prefer if I knew who the sender was and they had told me in person, face to face. There’s something about the impersonality of the process that bothers me. It seems just to be another example of how disconnected technology has made us. Rather than actually say something out loud, with our identity exposed, we choose to speak anonymously, at the risk of significantly diminishing the impact of our words.
The other danger that I see in the compliments page is the risk of cyberbullying. This time last year, an anonymous homophobic Twitter account was set up and quickly deleted. With this incident, other RHS Twitter accounts that were deemed to be offensive, such as “RHS Babe Watch,” were exposed and deleted as well. Now, a year later, it seems as though we are willingly setting ourselves up for another incident. There is a student moderating the compliments page, and the page’s cover photo says, “Please no hateful or mean comments, those will not be posted.” Still, there is always the risk of something regrettable appearing on the Internet, and I think that this definitely increases that risk. Additionally, some of the compliments posted, while not technically cyberbullying, aren’t exactly the typical “You’re so nice!” compliment. Rather, a few of the posts have jokingly (and descriptively) complimented girls’ bodies. While I’m sure the original posters did not have malicious intentions, it does to some extent contribute to a culture of objectification and poor body image.
The compliments page was started with good intentions, and so far, has been running successfully. Still, I find it disappointing that students now opt to skip personal communication and hide behind the comfort of anonymity. Though sometimes the idea of giving a person a genuine compliment in person may seem awkward, I think it ultimately is more sincere, which is sometimes lacking in this plugged-in world.