After a week of investigating my initial travelogue, PostSecret, I was left with very little inspiration and on a whim, created a Formspring of my very own. For those of you who may not know, Formspring is an anonymous question-and-answer social website created in November of 2009. The site is most popular with a younger demographic, particularly among teeny boppers, otherwise known as middle school and high school students. While the topic of my travelogue has changed, the scope still remains the same and is focused on the impact of anonymity associated with social media websites and the type of environments they foster.

Unsure exactly where to begin, I began with the most logical thing and linked my formspring to my Facebook. The typical Formspring message appeared on my newsfeed: “Ask me anything.” Mildly amused (and embarrassed) by this, I decided to see what would happen. This was on Wednesday. As of today I have been asked 48 questions, a feat I find quite hilarious. Most of the questions were silly and easily identifiable as to who posted them, but a few were quite offensive, namely this one: “I wanna touch your belly button… from the inside…” As much as I wanted to delete that comment and report the asinine idiot who wrote such a juvenile and perverse remark, this comment fully represents Formspring in its true nature. It fosters the environment where an individual can sit behind their computer screen in the comfort and safety of their room, and post outlandish comments and questions without ever being identified.

Now, creating my own Formspring is only one aspect of my travelogue. Some of the other components that I have been researching include studying other people’s Formsprings, as well as creating a survey for Formspring users. The survey is solely for users of Formspring, and asks questions such as gender, age, how long they have had their formspring for, how often they use it, the most memorable question they have been asked, and things of that nature. Unfortunately, though, my survey has not received as much popularity as my Formspring, which complicates my research since the survey pool cannot consist of solely three individuals. Another aspect of my travelogue has been researching the protocol regarding inappropriate, offensive, or threatening remarks posted on individuals’ Formspring. Naturally, the anonymity of the website promotes a forum for bullying and harassment, both verbally and sexually, the latter which I have personally experienced. I have found cases of individuals who have committed suicide as a result of bullying via Formspring, but since it is such a sensitive topic, it is hard for me to further investigate this matter. I have read the website’s “About” page, Safety Tips, and other information regarding this matter, but in an attempt to acquire further information, I decided to directly contact Formspring.

Of course this was met with difficulty seeing as the only options to contact Formspring administrators were for user support (to report a comment) or a media inquiry. As an intern at Disney with a personal Disney email address, I was very tempted to use this to my advantage as a “press inquiry.” But, for fear of losing my job, where it asked for your “organization” I simply put New York University, which hopefully has a little bit of pull. I wrote a formal letter that detailed who I was and what I hoped to accomplish through this travelogue. I then asked if they would be able to provide or direct me to an area that provides demographics or statistics about the users of Formspring. Additionally, I inquired about their policy regarding the anonymity of the site, such as their ability to trace back questions posted by anonymous users when they prove threatening. Hopefully an administrator or team member of Formspring contacts me–or at the very least, politely sends a decline letter. I look forward to hearing your comments and suggestions :)

P.s If you are a Formspring user please take the survey!

5 Responses to “~*~Ask Me NEthing~*~ ;;;)”

  1. Elizabeth says:

    This is an awesome topic! If you can get in contact with the people at Formspring and get them to talk I think you’ll really have something. Another company to reach out to might be Facebook. If you remember back a few years Facebook had a really popular application called the Honesty Box. It was never big in my town, but I’ve met people at NYU who said Honesty Box ran their high school social life. Users could post anonymous comments to anyone with an honesty box, thus resulting in lots of bullying and harassment. It seems like Honesty Boxes have lost popularity and maybe even been removed as an application. Maybe you can try to get in contact with Facebook to get some data. After all it was sort of the precursor to Formspring.

  2. Kyle says:

    I think this a better or more relevant topic than PostSecret and I’m glad to see you’ve switched paths. Formspring is a weird place. I think what you can do to get more to write about is follow a super-popular user and just note the types of answers and responses they get. Maybe tracking different kinds of people and seeing different uses will work too. For instance, a 13 year old scene queen vs a graduate student – or something. I created a Formspring before its peak in popularity and was blessed with the username of “dog”. Now, I think a lot of people just find my page by plugging in random words in the URL. I don’t advertise my account anywhere else (maybe have done so once or twice on Facebook and Tumblr) and most of my questions come from random strangers (to my knowledge, it is anonymous). I try to answer all my questions as briefly as possible, but sometimes I elaborate. To me, Formspring is almost like a really bad joke. I’m excited to see what you learn and I’m going to take your survey now.

  3. Jessica Yu says:

    I think you are able to get in contact with the Formspring people that would strengthen your travelogue even more! I am actually running into the same problem where there is not much response to my survey, but definitely tried sending out to your friends that have Formspring and ask them to forward it as well. I think it’s interesting to see how Formspring does hand harassment on their website. Since it is mainly anonymous asking they delete the comment? ban the user? I’m looking forward to see what you can find out from Formspring administrators.

  4. arosen says:

    I think trying to get in touch with the Formspring people is a great idea. However, if you do not have any luck, I still believe your travelogue will be strong based on the results you get from your survey. It should be interesting to get honest answers from people who use Formspring in different ways, especially since it is an anonymous community where people feel they can say things they would not actually say to someone else in person.

    The Formspring creators might have some interesting responses as well. There should definitely be some kind of harassment policy for the site, especially with the recent teen suicides as a result of bullying. It seems like the site is not monitored as closely as it should be, which is dangerous not only for the people who could get hurt as a result, but it could pose a liability to the Formspring and open them up to various lawsuits. If they do not have a policy to protect its users, I wonder if they have one to protect themselves. I think this is a great topic and feedback from the Formspring administrators would definitely enhance your travelogue, but regardless I am looking forward to what you find out from users as well.

  5. Kristen Kim says:

    I agree with the above comments, Formspring is a great travelogue idea. The anonymity aspect definitely opens up a lot of options for questions/comments. It’s kind of cool because you can ask what you want without the embarrassment of revealing your identity, but… there is that creep factor again. I’ve never used one before but… do people go around asking weird questions on strangers’ formsprings? Or do you assume that most of these questions (including the weird one) are from friends who have seen the link on your Facebook page??

    Good luck with everything!

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