When I first heard about Formspring I was very excited. It sounded familiar and comforting ,something like you would bake a cake in. Only then I realised I was thinking about spring form. Formspring it turns out, is nothing like cake, it is not sweet, and to me it doesn’t sound like a very well baked idea.
Its premise is simple – it allows you to “find out more about your friends by asking and responding to interesting questions.” I believe they use the term friends loosely.
Formspring was launched in 2009 and while it still stands alone it was also absorbed into Tumbr at the time and it quickly went viral with millions of users a month. In fact some months it boasts over 50 million users.
But here is the problem. Unlike other forms of social media like Facebook and Twitter where you control what you write, the whole point of Formspring is that you don’t. Instead, you answer the questions that other people ask. Questions which are often nasty, provocative and inflammatory.
For kids and teens, this can be a disaster.
Rachel Simmons in her book Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls writes:
Girls are especially vulnerable to Formspring for several reasons. For girls obsessed with what peers are saying about them, the site seems too good to be true. Here, finally -– girls believe -– I will discover my true social worth. For girls who define success as being liked by everyone, Formspring lets hope spring eternal: you can open an account and maybe, just maybe, you won’t get a mean comment. Or perhaps others will rally to your defense. You’ll be that girl who everyone really loves!
Needless to say, it is a toxic, self-reinforcing cycle: if you are that desperate to know what your peers think, you probably lack the self-esteem to define your own value. The more you look outside of yourself for self-worth, by visiting the website, the more personal authority and confidence you give up.
And as if that is all not bad enough what many people don’t realise is that all the questions and answers on Formspring are indexed meaning if you use Formspring everything you say and all the answers that people have given about you are available publicly to anyone wishing to Google you.
Have I put you off yet?
Have you joined Formspring? Is it just another social media device or is it a platform for abuse and bullying? Would you ever want to answer questions posed to you by strangers?