asking.for trouble

Being called “slut,” “whore,” and pregnant have lead senior Eden Krull to completely delete all posts off her ask.fm wall. She has now been off of the site for over a month.

“I think it’s dumb,” she said of ask.fm. “But I don’t give a crap about (the things that were said about me) because it was anonymous. It was probably just one or two people who don’t like me.”

Ask.fm, a social media website which was launched on June 16, 2010, allows people to ask anonymous questions to each other. Users can then answer questions that they have been asked of them. These answers then become viewable to the public.

Questions can also be asked to a specific person with the option of anonymity, but all of the user’s followers can view the question and the answers to it.

The anonymous nature of the site seems to be the problem according to Assistant Principal Ken Koenig.

“The problems are not constant,” Koenig said. “They just tend to pop up. In general, they mostly come up at the beginning of the school year. People have less time to be directly social so the turn to social media.”

As for counselor Craig Rafail, “Ask.fm is the latest edition of of social media that is used for inappropriate conversation. For ask.fm users, they know bullying is a part of it. So the question is why sign up for an account?”

Krull says that she chose to get an account because “everyone did it and I thought it would be a good idea.”

After using the site for only 2 weeks Krull says she no longer accesses her account although she has not deleted it. “It was not worth it to get it originally. It is so dumb, I don’t even know why that site exists.”

According to Rafail this is the right thing to do.  In fact, he said if a student signs up for an ask.fm account, they are “accepting and participating in the bullying.”

“You have to block them or shut it down,” he said of bullies on sites such as ask.fm. “It creates situational depression, anxiety and low self-esteem. A trend coming from mental health professionals is recommending you don’t get an account like this.”

Koenig agrees and said he wishes students would realize that they do not have to respond to what is asked to them. They can simply ignore or delete the questions or comments which were directed towards them if they are inappropriate. They they will not go public thus avoiding the problem.

“The issue with the bullying lies in the maturity level of the people on the social media site, both the people who are putting out the mean comments and those that are letting them appear on their profile,” Koenig said. “They need to just use good judgement and not get themselves into potentially bad situations.”

Even with all of the problems surrounding the site, there are still many students who continue to use it such as junior Kimi Camara. Camara said one of the main things that appeals to him about the site is the ability to look at other people’s drama from the outside.

“I check (the site) a couple of times a day,” he said. “I think it is fun to watch what people ask each other questions because it’s funny. The site is intense. People really go hard, and I enjoy being a spectator to that.”

People who do this are a major part of the problem in Rafail’s opinion, “Ask.fm users know bullying is a part of it. (They) let the bullies be heard.”

But according to Businessweek.com, the approximately 60 million users on ask.fm will have to adapt to changes that have been made to the site. Ask.fm recently released an update which makes it easier to report inappropriate behavior as well as allow users to opt out of receiving anonymous questions. They would then only receive questions when the questioner identifies themselves.

Businessweek.com also reported that these changes are in response to the suicide of a  British teenager who had a lot of messages directed toward him in a negative manner. A statement on the blog Techcrunch reported that ask.fm is going to hire more staff in order to try to monitor and stop problems with bullying on this site.

Following these changes Krull says, “Nobody uses it anymore, It’s already dying so it won’t last much longer.”

As for anybody who is thinking of getting an ask.fm in the future Krull says, “Don’t do it because it’s dumb and it’s a pathway for bullying.”

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