By Grace Givan, executive entertainment editor
Six times a day, junior Christian Figueroa gets compliments via the anonymous app TBH, an app that polls each person’s friends to give compliments to that person. Figueroa downloaded the app in August of 2017, and used it every day when the app’s popularity was at its highest among his friends.
Since he has gotten compliments such as being a smart and nice person, he says that this app can brighten his day. In fact, 81.6 percent of students at Prospect who use anonymous apps have had a positive experience, according to a Prospector survey of 197 students.
Anonymous apps such as Sarahah and Ask.fm have been growing in popularity, with 55.2 percent of Prospect students using them. Saraha was No. 1 in app stores in 30 countries, and Ask.fm had 150 million active users in 2016, according to CNN Tech. While these types of apps may seem to be very popular, some people at Prospect are not too fond of anonymity when it comes to internet activity.
According to school psychologist Dr. Jay Kyp-Johnson, a big issue with these types of apps is that there is no punishment if a comment gets out of hand or offends a person. While there is the same issue with traditional social media such as Instagram and Facebook, the possibility of tracing an anonymous comment back to someone is reduced since they can not be traced back to a username.
In fact, there could be nothing done for sophomore Shannon Casey’s situation when an anonymous account on Instagram left rude comments on one of her posts. While this was not on an anonymous platform, Casey believes anonymity on social media can be negative.
As a result, Casey was not comfortable direct messaging people for a while because she was skeptical if the person she was talking to made the anonymous account.
“When they said they were from my school, that scared me … just because [I knew] that I would have to go and see them but not know who they were,” Casey said. “I might even see them every day, but I still have no idea who [they are].”
Kyp-Johnson says that paranoia is heightened with anonymous apps since a person would always be trying to figure out who said what, whether it be good or bad.
While knowledge of a person’s background may add to trust, both Casey and Figueroa think that people are more sincere on anonymous apps.
“On traditional social media they’ll say, ‘Oh, that’s a cute picture,’ or ‘Love you,’” Casey said. “But on anonymous apps, they point out more personal things about a person and how much they mean to them instead of a cute ‘love you’ in an instagram post.”
According to Casey and Figueroa, comments on anonymous apps can be uplifting to someone’s ego. For Casey specifically, people on TBH have said she has good music taste and is a good friend.
“It’s more personal,” Casey said. “They point out more specific things that they really appreciate [about you] and that maybe you didn’t realize that people appreciate about you. … It’s very good for self love.”
While using these apps may brighten a person’s spirits, Kyp-Johnson believes that the absence of a physical presence contradicts the intended social interaction.
In fact, Figueroa says that if he was given a rude complement via an anonymous app, he would receive it differently than if it were face-to-face. If this comment was made face-to-face, he would know who it was and be able to value their opinion based on who this person was. Whereas if it were a comment over anonymous social media, Figueroa would not take the comment into account. For the most part, he doesn’t think about who comments things about him via anonymous apps but only pays attention to the comment itself.
Casey’s mother, Laura, understands this concept and thinks that the physical presence of someone is important when receiving a comment.
“I feel like an app like that isn’t necessary,” Laura said. “If you are going to compliment someone or interact with someone, that should not be anonymous.”
Kyp-Johnson finds it is important to connect with someone in person, as well. With anonymous apps, a person can not talk about the things that happened the next day, Kyp-Johnson points out, because it is hard to figure out who anyone is on anonymous apps.
While Figueroa prefers traditional social media over anonymous apps because it is easier to establish connections with people, he sees the positives to using anonymous apps.
According to Figueroa, people like anonymous apps because it’s easier to say things when people don’t know who’s talking since it brings a sense of security to people.
“It basically boils down to permission,” Kyp-Johnson said. “Once people feel that they are being given permission to be anonymous and the accompanying concept that ‘so here you can say what you want,’ they go ahead and start sharing. However, anonymous and socially acceptable don’t go hand in hand. Thus, it is almost like an invitation to be socially inappropriate.”
While this may attribute to a person’s liking of these types of apps, 70 percent of the students that use anonymous apps at Prospect prefer traditional social media.
A reason why people may like traditional social media better, according to Figueroa, is because they find it important to know who is saying these things about them. Kyp-Johnson agrees.
“You can look at any horror movie you want; what is the key factor in every scary [movie]? Not knowing the nature of the beast,” Kyp-Johnson said. “And that’s replete in all of these digital communications. … Is this person really who they say they are? … There is just a feeling of unreality.”