Published September 12, 2013
What’s your bra size? Do you drink alcohol? Who did you hook up with last night, I heard you were smashed.
Have you ever been asked this type of question in public for everyone to hear the answer? Probably not. But these types of questions and their responses are publicly displayed every day on Ask.fm.
The website Ask.fm allows people to create pages in which others can leave comments or ask questions anonymously. These pages are especially popular among teens. According to some Palo Alto High School students, the pages are created with the hopes of discovering what people think or want to know about them but are too scared to do so in person. The questions and comments range from jokes to serious topics, from common knowledge to personal information.
An eerily similar site called Formspring.me was popular a few years ago, but Ask.fm is a more recent incarnation. Why is it making a splash right now? Because in this age of technology, apps and websites come in trends. These trends are incredibly popular for a few months and then die out for a new trend to move in.
After Formspring fell off the radar, the newsfeeds, where people post the links to their question pages, were clear of drama. Recently, Ask.fm has popped up as teens move onto new technology but continue to thirst for how others perceive them.
Making an Ask.fm account is the equivalent to handing everyone on the Internet an open invitation to cyberbully you. The anonymity gives high schoolers false bravery behind the protective walls of their computers. If they read that others wrote hurtful things, they might feel better about joining in and contributing their own mean comments, making this behavior seem like the norm. For example, people submit comments such as “you’re fat and ugly and a slut” and “your a little ***** ****ing fight me tomorrow at the quad after school i’ll **** you up.” Nobody knows who I am! Other people are doing it! He asked for it when he made the page! Some people might think these statements justify cyberbullying and that it will make them feel better about themselves. Guess what: it won’t!
Other questions resemble, “who are your best friends?” and “name the top 5 hottest freshmen girls.” The users often reply with an exclusive list of names. Now these questions seem totally insignificant and meaningless, but people that are not included in the answer could potentially be very insulted or upset. Those mentioned could feel embarrassed or sexually harassed.
Teenagers are affected by these incredibly irrelevant responses because they are all secretly obsessed with how their peers perceive them, even more so than they are willing to let on. Social status and acceptance are heavily weighted in the teen mind — the two often cause a range of emotions, which unfortunately include depression and suicidal thoughts. It’s not worth it to target anyone or put yourself at risk of being targeted online.
How many times have you tried to Google or Facebook search for someone before you even met him or her? It’s pretty easy to find a few posts and pictures from this person. Because the Internet allows others to track our every move, Ask.fm not only affects users in the present, but also in the future.
On the other side of the bravery, the receiving user may post answers to bullying or give personal information in response. For example, people post answers to questions such as “when was the last time you broke the law?” or “did you take naked pics?”
The responses to these types of questions are often very personal and/or revealing of illegal activity. Answers can be easily found online by friends, family members, school administrators, employers and other people that will ultimately judge and possibly punish you. If you respond about smoking weed every day in a place easily accessible by admissions officers, you probably won’t get accepted to college!
What you write online is out there forever. With a quick swipe of the keyboard, your virtual actions can be Google searched, screenshotted, sent around, or saved away in an archive. The fact is that disabling an account or making it private will not protect you. No matter what you think, people can find it.
Let’s put an end to this trend. It’s simply not worth it to hurt yourself and others just out of curiosity of what others think of you. If they can’t say it to your face, it doesn’t matter.
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