Anonymity is a powerful thing.
In any situation in which an individual's identity is not disclosed, they inevitably have far more confidence knowing that they will not be judged on a personal level for their actions. That confidence, however, can often give a person more incentive to attack others. Now, with social networking usage at an all-time high and technology advancing at a remarkable pace, cyber-bullying is on the rise, especially in the high school age group. In fact, according to statistics from the i-SAFE foundation, over half of adolescents and teens have been bullied online, and about the same number have participated in the bullying.
This overwhelming flood of negativity has given teenagers a poor reputation when it comes to social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. Recently, however, high school students have been using the ability to be anonymous on the internet in a positive way. Students from hundreds of schools across the nation have been creating Facebook accounts dedicated to complimenting their peers - all anonymously.
Inspired by "Pay It Forward," a movie that promotes being kind to others, the "Facebook compliments" movement took off when four students at Queens University in Ontario, Canada started a Facebook page dedicated to complimenting their peers. Students wrote compliments to their peers in private messages to the Facebook account, which were posted as anonymous words of kindness. A staggering 1,500 comments were submitted in four days, out of which only about four or five were unkind.
This "cyber-graciousness" has spread to Connecticut as well; countless schools from well-known Yale University to the small Old Saybrook High School have pages on Facebook to carry on the movement of anonymous kindness.
"I added OSHS Compliments wondering what it was since almost 100 of my Facebook friends were friends with the page," says Lillian Bonin, a sophomore at Old Saybrook High School. She received an anonymous compliment through the Facebook page shortly after discovering it. "I didn't expect to get a compliment so quickly, especially one that addressed some of my insecurities. It made me feel really loved and accepted."
Movements like this have proven that social networking and anonymity on the internet doesn't just spread hate - love can be spread anonymously too. However, the message of kindness doesn't have to stop when you leave your computer. Encourage others to participate in the "Pay It Forward" movement by doing good deeds, no matter how small. Establish a personal goal of making someone smile every day. Tell someone that you love them. As cliché as it may sound, you'll be surprised by how much simple actions like these will improve not only the quality of your own life, but also brighten the lives of others.