Saturday, December 1, 2012

All You Need Is (Facebook) Love: ‘Compliments’ Accounts Go Viral at Colleges and Universities

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, TimeTech: http://techland.time.com

On a cold, rainy day, four college students were sitting around the kitchen table, depressed about their heavy homework and class loads at Canada’s prestigious Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario.

To cheer themselves and others up, third-year undergraduates and aspiring teachers Rachel Albi, Erica Gagne, Jessica Jonker, and Amanda Smurthwaite started a Facebook profile called Queen’s U Compliments, in which fellow classmates anonymously submit compliments about members of the campus community, and the four founding members post them from the account.

Since its launch on Sept. 12, the founders say the account boasts more than 4,000 friends and 1,300 compliments and has inspired Compliments pages attributed to at least 56 colleges and universities in Canada, the United States, and soon, Europe.

The number of copycat pages is growing every day, and this week, the founders created a private group called University Compliments as an effort to unite all of the Compliments pages on Facebook. The Queen’s University founders estimate that Compliments pages collectively boast more than 35,000 “likes.”

(MORE: Quit Posting Facebook Copyright/Privacy Messages — It’s a Hoax)

Effusive posts on Queen’s U Compliments have called students “the human equivalent of a ray of sunshine,” “the inspiration for Aretha Franklin’s ‘Respect,’” and “the Queen of Queen’s.”

Some border on flirtatious, including “I want to wrap him up like a present and give him to myself for Christmas” and “She’ll make your drink come out of your nose with laughter, and she’ll make tears pour from your eyes when you realize you’ll NEVER HAVE HER.”

The founders opted to create a Facebook People account as opposed to a Page because they wanted to be able to tag the people receiving praise. If they are not already friends with a person being complimented, they send a Friend Request to that person.

The four founders acknowledge that Queen’s U Compliments is their attempt to create a more positive atmosphere on campus and contribute to school-wide initiatives about mental health awareness and anti-bullying.

Between 2010 and 2011, several student deaths - both suicides and accidents - rattled the campus, with two tragedies occurring in one week. And there have been reports of Facebook bullying among students at the School of Music, according to co-founders Jonker and Gagne, who are both enrolled at the school.

In fact, inspired by the Queen’s U Compliments model, the School of Music’s student council asked students to write nice things about each other on Post-it notes and post them on a wall for a day.

“We thought [Queen's U Compliments] was a really great way to help students help other students,” says co-founder Smurthwaite. Albi likens the project to the 2000 film Pay It Forward, in which a young boy tries to make the world a better place by encouraging people to carry out acts of kindness for one another.

Maintaining the site is a job in itself. The bulk of submissions - about 50 a day - pour in between 10pm and 11pm, when students are done with homework and classes. Collectively, the women spend eight hours a day reviewing and posting submissions, even sending them back to the author if they contain too many inside jokes. Not to mention this work is in addition to their classes, essays, campus jobs, tour guiding, community service and dance performances.

Albi, Jonker and Smurthwaite are all enrolled in the rigorous concurrent education program, which culminates in a teaching certification.

Bombarded with 100 notifications during the project’s first week, the founders were posting so much in the beginning to help Queen’s U Compliments become popular that Facebook restricted it, so the women could not post anything for three days.

To safeguard the site from spam and other “abusive behavior,” Facebook’s help section says accounts may be blocked temporarily if users “used the same feature repeatedly in a short period of time.” The women are using the private Facebook group University Compliments to advise other schools who have run into problems, as well as to talk about their successes and ways to improve the project.

To read further, go to: http://techland.time.com/2012/11/29/all-you-need-is-facebook-love-compliments-accounts-go-viral-at-colleges-and-universities/
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