Thursday, 17 March 2011

Formspring....Anonymous Facebook Cyber Bullying

I was completely shocked this week by a Facebook App that my child went on.  Formspring is a community with over 4,700,000 members who can post and chat to each other.  The idea is to ask questions and let people give you their honest answers and opinions with the option of being completely anonymous while they do so.

They say:
Formspring encourages people to get to know each other better in a simple and fun way. It starts by directly asking people original questions in anticipation of their entertaining or revealing responses. Responses can range from straightforward to surprising and can lead to understanding something more about the people you know or find interesting. Whether you are curious to know more about a college you are applying to, the movies your friend likes, or the stories of someone you respect, on Formspring, you can have fun, share insights, and relate to one another in a new way.

It all sounds harmless and fun.  But the reality is it is a haven for Trolling, an excuse for the most vitriolic Cyber Bullying I've ever seen on a Facebook supported App.  The anonymous option is allowing people to say things that are against Facebook's own rules and regulations with no policing. 

In their reviews and comments I found comments from people who had experienced or witnessed the dark side of this "just for fun" Facebook app. 

"this site shd b scrapped it allows bullies to bully people blatantly..its all wrong...."
"take away anon... people are so mean!!!"
"Why do people bother trying to bully people on this?"
"whats all the fuss over formspring its just basically for people who aint got bollocks to say it to ur face seems pointless"
"This App is shite!!!!...all it does is let spineless bastards write nastey stuff to you without attually puting your name!!!"

My own daughter entered into the "fun" of Formspring.  I am just so glad we have an open relationship and we are friends on Facebook.  My Newsfeed became filled with some really hideous, vile comments about my little girl.  Hiding behind their anonymity, spineless jealous girls, romantically spurned lads or possibly just sick strangers spewed torrents of abuse.  She did get some lovely positive affirmations of how wonderful she is from admirers, friends and good, decent people who entered into the spirit of the exchange.  But when you are being told how "worthless" you are and being taunted and belittled in a public forum, it's hard to let the good shine through.  I won't go into the details because they are personal to her.  

She did delete her account.

My daughter is lucky in that I was aware of what happened.  Family and friends gave her an outpouring of love on her wall and she put the nastiness behind her.  However, some kids aren't as lucky.  The vulnerable teens, the unsupported children, kids who hide their problems away too ashamed to tell anyone...they will become the real victims of this site.  The so-called Internet Trolls will set up home here to see who they can push to  the limits.  

I really want to warn you all.  Warn your children about this site.  However thick skinned they are, someone could always just push too far.   I'm so glad I was able to step in.  Being a teenager is hard enough as it is, without subjecting yourself to spineless Cyberbullying in the name of facebook fun!  


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