Screenshots taken from a student’s Ask.fm page
With its simple layout and nothing but pages upon pages of questions, Ask.fm is not your typical social networking site. The site, which gained enormous popularity in 2013, allows users to create an account that is typically shared over Facebook or Twitter. Their followers, friends, or whoever else stumbles across the user’s page is then able to ask questions, and unless the asker also has an account and chooses to reveal their identity, these questions are completely anonymous.
The questions can range anywhere from a casual “What’s your favorite class?” or “Who are your best friends?” to crude sexual remarks and outrageously offensive insults.
Ask.fm accounts are popping up more and more frequently in the St. Paul Academy and Summit School community. Students are creating accounts and posting links to them on social media sites.
Just as it is in any other community, the array of questions and reactions is broad. “You have no control over what people ask you. That being said, it’s fun to have one, knowing that people want to know more about you,” sophomore Nissa Rolf said.
Junior Ian Sussna chose to make an account for entertainment and to connect with his friends who had already made them, “I saw other people doing it and I thought it might be fun,” Sussna said.
Though Ask.fm takes anonymity to another level compared to most social media sites, Sussna comments that internet itself is full of ambiguity. “It’s built on secrecy; you’ve got screen names and icons to hide behind,” Sussna said.
The problem with Ask.fm does not stem purely from the fact that it is anonymous, but instead from the way that users take advantage of this sheild.
According to Business Insider, nine teenagers have committed suicide after receiving multiple anonymous hate messages. “I’d like to think that the SPA student body isn’t like other schools, but there really is no way to prevent inappropriate questions from being asked other than taking it down or not having one at all,” Rolf said.
Despite this horrifying statistic, Ask.fm has proved to have alternate and postive uses. It allows students to express themselves and interact with others in a way that face to face conversations don’t always allow. Often times people will use the site to compliment each other, ask legitimately intriguing questions, and just get to know more about each other in a way that can feel more comfortable than small talk. “I think the perceived anonymity makes people much more honest, which fits in with the SPA values,” Sussna said.