The social media website Ask.fm has recently sparked controversy across the country, especially in high schools. Ask.fm is a popular social networking site with over 60 million registered users. The website allows individuals to ask other users questions either anonymously or as an identified user. Though many use Ask.fm to entertain themselves, critics say that it can easily be used as an instrument of cyberbullying. However, Ask.fm is a useful social tool because it allows people to find out what others think about them and build upon flaws after hearing constructive criticism through the anonymity of the site.
The anonymity of Ask.fm allows people to ask questions or write comments without social consequences. Since one does not need an account to write messages to other people, it is nearly impossible to figure out who wrote what unless the asker decides to reveal his or her username. This aspect takes away the face-to-face judgment and discomfort that comes with an unusual question. In high school especially, where cliques and judgment are plentiful, it can be difficult to approach someone outside of one’s “normal” social group. With Ask.fm, one can get to know more about people from other social groups, classes and grades by their answers. This tactic can be used to clear up rumors, get to know a person’s interests, find out about a person’s thoughts and stances on issues, etc. Also, individuals can tell others their honest opinions of them. In return, users get a chance to find out what their peers think about them via the questions and statements asked. They can find out how others view them. Users often receive commendations and compliments about personal qualities and achievements. It’s always nice to feel appreciated and to be recognized for a job well done. While people should not need others to validate themselves, this is simply not the case in a world filled with insecurities. Questions can help people realize that there are others who care about their lives. In the case of negative questions and comments, people can turn them into constructive criticism to help better themselves. However, if users don’t want to answer a question or respond to a comment, they can just ignore it, and it will stay in their private inbox until they answer or delete it.
Ask.fm receives a great deal of bad press because individuals can use the website to cyberbully users by sending hurtful messages. However, there are actually a lot of features on Ask.fm that help ensure a safe environment. Users can report messages considered to be harassing that Ask.fm administers will investigate within 24 hours of the report. If worse comes to worst, there is always the option to disable the account to avoid the problem altogether.
Ask.fm may not be for those who are sensitive and easily offended, but it can be beneficial for those who want to learn more about how their peers perceive them. In return, the anonymity gives curious minds a chance to ask the questions they’ve always wanted to ask without the consequence of anyone finding out who they are. Ask.fm can be an entertaining, informative and helpful site—it just depends on how it is used.
—Hao, a sophomore, is a reporter.