Monday, May 6, 2013

Ask.Fm part 2: The Johari Window & Cyber-bullying

Five days ago I started a little social experiment on the anonymous question site Ask.fm. I was attempting to exploring the idea of anonymous questions in society and in relationships.
I have now answered 154 (often quite personal) questions and I have found it to be a very interesting experience. Has it been beneficial? For me, I think it has been. But this is certainly not the case for everyone. More on that later, first lets talk about the Johari Window!

The Johari Window is a communication model or a 'cognitive psychology tool' (I don't really know what that means) created in 1955 by two guys named Joe and Harry. Thus the name Johari, I kid you not!
You can read about it in a bit more detail here: http://www.mindtools.com/CommSkll/JohariWindow.htm
The main idea is that the Johari window is made up for four different sections or categories. Each category represents a part of ourselves.
The open area is the things that we are aware of and we openly share with the people around us.
The blind area is made up of the things other people know about us, but we are unaware of.
The hidden area is the things that we know about yourself, but other people do not.
And finally the unknown area is the things that we, and the people around us, are unaware of.
      
The idea behind the model is that by revealing things about yourself and having other people offering their opinion of you the open area expands, causing the other (more negative) areas to contract. The theory is that by revealing things about yourself you will build trust with others, while growing in self-awareness and confidence.  
How does this relate to Ask.fm? The way Ask.fm allows people to ask questions and make comments about you is basically this model in action. The key difference is that the people you are sharing with are anonymous, rather than people you trust who are also sharing about themselves. The Johari Window is designed as a tool to help teams build trust and consequently work well together. But does Ask.fm still function as way to expand your open area and learn more about yourself?
For me it has functioned well, though not perfectly, but I do think I am the exception to the rule.
I have learn't a surprising amount about how people perceive me. For example one friend said she was surprised about how funny I was in my answers. Apparently she has perceived me as being quite a serious person, which isn't how I see myself. I almost think of myself as a jokester or at least someone who tries to be funny, so that was in my hidden area that is now in the open area. This is just one example of how I have grown to better understand how other people view me.
Some people were encouraging, anonymously leaving complements and comments on my character.
People also used it as a medium to criticise, or question my behaviour. Usually over my tendency to be a bit too flirtatious, my generously sized opinion of myself and my "artistic behaviours". I have looked at the things these people have said and I have thought about the way I could act/present myself to better represent the view I have of myself. This is the action of correcting undesirable things in the blind area so that they fit with the person you are trying to be in the open area.
And finally people asked a lot of general questions about different things, drawing out my world view in my answers and therefore exposing more of my hidden area. One friend did, however, raise the issue that different people may perceive the answers in different ways, or misinterpret the original meaning. The lack of two way communication greatly increases the danger of this, as there is not much opportunity for clarification or explanation.
(If you are interested in reading through my answers you can see my ask.fm page here: http://ask.fm/socialexperiment )

So for me Ask.Fm has been a fairly healthy self-analysis of my Johari Window. But for many, if not most, users it is much less healthy.
Ask.fm has become one of the worst websites for cyber-bullying. Only launched in 2010 there have already been multiple suicides and attempted suicides attributed to abuse on the website.
The problem again is in the anonymity of the people asking questions. One or two people can post a hundred messages of hate, and the receiver will assume a hundred people hate them.
There is also no way of telling whether or not you actually value the opinion of the sender. Most people tend to assume the people asking questions and sending abusive messages are from the people they value and love. When in reality it is most likely the exact opposite.

Ask.fm really is a double edged sword. It is only in the anonymous nature of the website that people feel open to ask many personal questions and make comments about people. But allowing the asker to remain anonymous gives them too much power and creates the perfect platform for cyber-bullying.

So to answer some of my original questions, yes it is good to ask personal questions. But it is not good to do so anonymously. Just be bold and ask them personally.
Allowing people to ask you questions anonymously does offer the opportunity to develop yourself as a person and develop your confidence by way of the Johari Window. But it also sets you up as an extremely easy target for cyber-bullying.
So all considered, despite my very positive experience, I think Ask.fm is a website to be avoided. And anonymous communication is not something that should be encouraged as part of our social lives.

Instead, sit down and work on your Johari Window with a group of close friends or colleagues.
It could be fun!

Thank you for reading!
Dan Brunskill
 







  

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Ask.fm: A Social Experiment.

For a long time I have be interested in how people think, behave and interact with one another.
So when this new anonymous question asking website showed up, and introduced a new way to for people to relate to each other, it naturally caught my interest.

Initially I basically wrote it off as a high school gossip machine, like one of those horrible 'confession pages' on Facebook. But the more people signed up for it the more I became curious about it.
However, I didn't think to seriously about it as a part of society until I asked someone (on Ask.fm) if they thought it could be a relevant part of society, like Facebook. The reply surprised me: "Yeah, it could. Provided it was used in the right way". So that got me thinking about the role of anonymous questions as a part of our society, a part of relationships, a part of communication.

I decided the best way to determine the quality or function of anonymous questions, would be to create an Ask.fm account and try it out for my self.
It hasn't even been 24 hours yet, but I have answered over 80 questions and I am finding it to be a very interesting experience.

I would write about how I feel about the website, but frankly I am not sure yet.

But here are some the questions buzzing around my head:
  • Are anonymous questions beneficial to a relationship or not?
  • Does the ability to ask anonymous questions bring us closer to our friends and enable us to understand them better? Or does it just make our friendships less and less personal?
  • Does allowing people to easily contact you anonymously simply turn you a target for cyber bullying? Or does having the chance to make statements about yourself build your confidence? 
  • Is it a positive way to relate to people, or is it not really communication at all?
  • Is it good to ask such open and personal questions, anonymous or not?


I'll let you know when I come to any conclusions!
Thanks for reading, look out for another post soon.
Dan Brunskill