Teen’s social media use inspires others

Lake Zurich students use a Formspring page to share positive comments about their classmates.

Too often, we hear stories about students using online anonymity to bully their peers. But one Illinois high school student is using social media to improve campus morale.

A rising sophomore at Lake Zurich High School created a Formspring page where middle and high school students can leave anonymous compliments for each other. The site’s creator has chosen to remain anonymous herself, releasing only her grade and gender. She approves all comments before they are posted, often adding an emoticon or positive comment of her own.

Formed this past spring, “LZ Compliments” has received 3,164 postings as of press time. Students use the site to boost their classmates anonymously, posting such comments as “[student] is a babe and is cute with her braces,” or “[student] is so sincere and an awesome person.”

The creator of LZ Compliments says she made the site in response to the ugly negativity she usually saw on the internet.

“I didn’t know what the reaction was going to be,” she told Lake Zurich Patch. “I didn’t know how popular it would be.”

While initially the site received negative comments predicting its failure, the student moderator refused to post anything negative. Soon, positive sentiments came rolling in. She says she most likes posts that are well thought out and include more than just compliments on physical appearances.

The creation of LZ Compliments comes at a time when cyber bullying has led to a recent spate of highly publicized teen suicides, or “bullycides,” across the nation. Randi Zuckerberg, Facebook’s marketing director and sister of site co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, recently argued that putting an end to anonymity online could help curb bullying and harassment on the web.

“People behave a lot better when they have their real names down. … I think people hide behind anonymity, and they feel like they can say whatever they want behind closed doors,” Zuckerberg said during a panel discussion on social media hosted by Marie Claire magazine.

The idea of forcing an end to anonymity has met a great deal of controversy from privacy and free-speech proponents who argue that anonymity is sometimes necessary.

However, the student creator of LZ Compliments has said that the brand of anonymity used by that website has caused a wave of positivity at Lake Zurich High School since the site launched.

“People do treat each other differently,” she said. “It made me view Lake Zurich in a different way.”

Keeping her identity secret has been a major challenge. While she revealed herself to three close friends, she hasn’t informed her brother, who receives compliments on the site. She often hears students discussing the site at school and chooses to avoid the subject.

However, the anonymous student does plan on revealing her identity at graduation, and she has considered the idea of passing the site down to another anonymous student at that time.

The site reportedly has inspired two neighboring high schools to start similar pages.

“I’m really proud of it, I have to say. It really shows the power of the internet,” she told Patch.

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