Can the impact of compliments be just as strong online as they are in person? The Student Activities Board believes so.
In an effort to promote a more positive campus, SAB’s social media team resurrected the “Hillsdale College Compliments” Facebook page of 2013, this time bringing it to Instagram. The Hillsdale College Complements Instagram account posts brief, personal compliments, sent in by students.
Lauren Schlientz, a senior on SAB’s social media team, said the page is an easy way to compliment someone and to bring about positivity. Stunned by the amount of compliments initially received, Schlientz said students were quickly on board with the idea.
“You have the opportunity to make someone’s day, which I think is really cool,” Schlientz said.
The account raises awareness of others’ admirable qualities, encouraging students to focus less on themselves and more on their peers, Schlientz said. The team filters out certain compliments, such as those that are purposefully teasing or provocative.
“There are compliments where you can tell they’re trying to get a rise out of people,” Schlientz said. “It’s just common sense, you can tell if it’s genuine.”
After seeing an anonymous compliment to her, junior Frances Weise said it made her happy, and she told her friends to check the page out.
Alexandra Whitford, assistant director of SAB, said that during her undergraduate years at Hillsdale College, students ran a Facebook group with a similar purpose, and posted quite frequently. The compliments gradually came to a stop in 2017.
“It was about an underlying social media positivity,” Whitford said. “It was just there and you’d see your friends on it occasionally.”
Rising as an undeniable force, social media can yield both positive and negative effects. It can help people find communities, yet it also fosters harm by allowing more freedom to cyberbully through online anonymity.
A few years ago, students on campus used a group messaging app called Yik Yak to place their peers in a negative light by posting hurtful comments, Whitford said. Yik Yak launched in 2013 and ended in 2017, and was a space for local gossip within a 5 mile radius of account holders, termed “Yaks.” Users were unnamed, and this online invisibility led to a great deal of widespread cyberbullying.
“Even though [Yik Yak] doesn’t exist anymore, social media still brings people down,” Whitford said. “Hillsdale College Compliments isn’t trying to counteract anything, but rather add a different voice to the negativity social media often speaks.”
Weise appreciated the anonymous platform the new page provides for students sending in compliments.
“It’s nice to have that anonymous platform where you can feel comfortable sharing, knowing no one will know it’s you,” said Weise.
Schlientz said she hopes the page doesn’t stop people from complimenting each other in person.
“Since social media has taken over, a lot of people don’t know how to communicate with each other anymore,” Schlientz said. “Although it’s through social media, I’m hoping that this page will be a way for people to step back from thinking of themselves, and see things in other people that they might not have noticed before.”