ask.fm cultivates cyberbullying

ask.fm+cultivates+cyberbullying

ask.fm

What would seem like an innocent pastime has turned cruel and harmful. Rebecca Sedwick should be 13- years-old now. However, because of social networking sites, such as the infamous formspring and ask.fm, she committed suicide a month before her birthday.

Rebecca Sedwick was only 12- years-old when she was severely harassed on this social networking site. This website allows teens to submit questions to their peers. Teens are familiar with tweets or facebook posts: “Ask me questions guys!”

Because most students check the anonymous box to hide their identities, however, the website has become the perfect environment for cyberbullying instead of a fun questioning between friends. This pushed Rebecca, along with eight other teens, to an early end.

“I think social networking sites like formspring are sad and disappointing,” said senior Lauren Courtney. “It’s sad that people would ever want to just say mean things to others for no reason, but it’s also sad that people would subject themselves to that kind of treatment because they’re so incredibly insecure they only hope they’ll get one nice comment. I don’t have a formspring or ask.fm. I deleted mine freshman year after a month or so when someone told me to kill myself. I realized I didn’t have to put up with it, so I stopped. It’s liberating to not worry what others think about you.”

Even after all the failed precedents as examples, sites like ask.fm are still being created. In 2007, Facebook launched “Honesty Box,” which allowed people to message others anonymously. In 2011, only four years later, it shut down due to the chaos of cyberbullying and suicides that erupted. With nine suicides over the past year being attributed to ask.fm, it seems like it’s heading in the same direction.

“Truthfully, I think that ask.fm is one of the absolute worst social media sites that have come to pass in our generation,” said junior Seth Proffitt. “It just gives another way for teens to say bad things to other teens. It opens a whole new window for cyber bullies to attack people. I do have one, because I thought it was a good way for other people to connect. But the horrible, downright mean things I see on ask.fm sickens me. It’s really awful, and it’s not shocking to see suicides directly related to the function of ask.fm: to ask questions anonymously; to hide your face while asking someone incredibly personal questions.”

Part of the site’s problem is that it’s a social media site with virtually no privacy settings and no real identity controls. Facebook, by contrast, has made efforts to ensure that a high percentage of its accounts belong to real people — and it deletes the accounts of fake users. It also has privacy controls, so you can lock down your account completely.

“Social networking sites, like ask.fm, can be fun,” said freshman Elizabeth Bolewitz. “But it can be dangerous, because people can be horrible and send hate anonymously. I do have an ask.fm, because most of my friends have one.”

The website Formspring was also shut down due to cyberbullying in March of this year, just before ask.fm saw a spike in popularity.

“If you make one, then you’re asking for it,” said sophomore Ben Hickey. “If it’s anonymous, then there are no repercussions if you do bully someone. It seems inevitable that these sites continue, because so many people continue to use them.”

With the problem of  anonymous bullying over the internet  becoming a repeated issue, it’s baffling that new sites are springing up every couple of years that have as their basis  the same concept and battle the same problems that have already been fought.

“I don’t think that any suicide is the sole result of a social networking site like that,” said senior Julia Miller. “I think that there’s always going to be some deeper issue. However, let’s be honest, any site that allows someone to anonymously state their “true feelings” for someone is going to lead to cruelty and bullying.”