“Nice stuff is not why you get it,” said Ariane Barrie-Stern, a freshman at Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School in New York City. “I think it’s interesting to find out what people really think that they don’t have the guts to say to you. If it’s hurtful, you have to remind yourself that it doesn’t really mean anything.” [NYT]And the way the system works is that the insults get posted only if you answer them, so this requires a bit of self-loathing. No shortage of that in high school, I would think.
Of course, I say this despite the fact that I am one of the few non-anonymous folks posting on Political Science Jobs Rumor Mill, which is the academic equivalent of formspring. That is, folks post rumors about jobs, but then these often devolve into efforts to trash job candidates, departments, universities, academia, and pretty much everything else. I originally de-cloaked and posted as myself to dispel rumors about a job at McGill. But then I stayed de-cloaked? Why, you ask? I am not sure I really know. I guess it is because I feel there should be at least a few folks on this site who can be seen as voices of reason. Yes, me as a voice of reason. That will tell you much about the site.
Anyhow, like all internet type stuff, formspring merely accelerates and exacerbates existing tendencies and habits. There have always been ways to insult people anonymously. Formspring just makes it louder and faster. Not good, but not entirely new either. Would I want my kid to be on formspring? No. Would I go to the poli sci rumor site if I was not tenured? Yes. Would I post as myself? Probably not.