College students have a habit of creating online forums about their schools. Usually, such mediums satirize aspects of the college. Facebook is littered with various college meme pages like “Swatmemes.” Twitter feeds that poke fun at school culture, like “Swarthmore Girl Problems,” abound.But the most recent Internet phenomenon at Swarthmore is not rooted in sarcasm or lampooning. Indeed, it is quite the opposite.
Swarthmore Compliments, which joined Facebook on November 20th, just in time for Thanksgiving, is an online forum in which students have the opportunity to anonymously submit a compliment about a fellow member of the Swarthmore community. The page, which is administered by students who also have chosen not to reveal their identities, then posts the compliments for everyone to see.
Reception to the page has been extremely positive. “I just saw it in my news feed in Facebook as something that a number of people had liked. So I checked it out and I loved the concept,” said Nick Allred ’13, who himself has been the benefactor of a compliment. “I like the way in which it just brightens people’s day within the community,” he added.
Mickey Herbert ’15, who also received a compliment and has been active on the page, agreed. “I think it’s a great idea,” he said. “You only get nice people saying nice things.”
This forum is not unique to Swarthmore. Indeed, according to the page, the concept originated as a social experiment at Queen’s University. Since then, it has rapidly spread to other colleges.
It has also rapidly spread through the Swarthmore community. As of Wednesday morning, Swarthmore Compliments has over five hundred likes, all in the span of nine days.
Students seem to particularly value the fact that names are not attached to the compliments. “I think what’s coolest about it is it’s particularly rewarding to get an anonymous compliment simply because you know whoever is saying it has no agenda,” said Allred. “When it’s coming from no one in particular, it feels in some ways that it’s coming from everyone,” he added.
Herbert agreed. “It makes it that much more meaningful,” he said.
In addition, both Herbert and Allred supported the decision of the page moderators to remain anonymous.
“If you knew who was running it, that might change the whole dynamic of it and affect what people are sending,” said Herbert.
“As long as they’re running it simply as a platform for people to express their opinions, which I have no reason to expect they aren’t, I’m perfectly happy with their anonymity,” Allred added.
Many Internet pages, like Swatmemes, quiet down after initial bursts of popularity, a possibility that some see in the future of Swarthmore Compliments. “I’m sure that the flurry of activity will die down to some extent. I don’t know how long it will stick around,” said Allred.
But the fact that it is popular now, in Allred’s opinion, makes up for that. “To the extent that it’s existed at all,” he said, “I think it’s done wonderful things for our community.”