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Formspring.me is a fairly new social networking site used by teenagers, mainly designed to allow users to anonymously post questions and comments on other users pages; however, it is growing a reputation as a place to gossip and insult people by posting profane, sexual and intentionally hurtful things.

With over 28 million users, the site has flown under the radar of parents and teachers since the sites inception. Many media sources and organizations have addressed this issue in order to avoid cyber-bullying, due to the March 22nd Formspring.me-related suicide by a 17 year old Long Island girl named Alexis Pilkington.
The site is rather simple to join: registration takes only a couple of minutes and once set up, you can integrate your account with Facebook or Tumblr, and invite your friends to anonymously ask you questions where, after responding, both question and response are posted publicly.

Potentially because of the age of users, questions tend to be inappropriate: One female user was asked, “Anyone ever tell you, you look like a crack whore?” for example.

After being insulted or asked a distasteful question, many users don’t avoid answering the questions and will respond with phrases such as, “Thank you, obviously I’m important if you took time out of your day to talk about me”, or “I love all my haters, they’re my biggest fans.”

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Anonymous online confessions have proven to be a very entertaining and successful medium for teenagers based on its prior success. A few years back, Juicycampus.com was largely popular prior to being shutdown, and the Honesty Box on Facebook.com continues to be a popular application.

Perhaps this phenomenon is embraced because of the “Haters Make Me Famous” ideology, which has been perpetuated by tabloids and celebrities alike. As a defense mechanism against harsh criticism, many celebrities will take the optimistic approach and point out that the people only hate on them to make themselves feel better about their own lives. Often times, this can have a positive effect on the celebrities as fans often rally behind them, profess their undying support, and can even draw more attention–because as they say in Hollywood bad publicity is still good publicity, right?

Wrong! Maybe for celebrities who have the luxury of millions of fans, but what’s problematic with teenagers who attempt to embrace this ideology, is that they are at a critical developmental stage, where they are discovering their personalities, developing their bodies, shaping their minds, and criticisms can affect their sense of self and create a complex that may affect them into their adult lives. While it is a reality that people are going to hate regardless, it is suggested that if you are a parent, to monitor your child’s use of internet forums such as formspring.me because of its unregulated cyber-bullying, which could lead to disastrous results.

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