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!