By Min Park
Apps like “After School” and “Ask.fm” enable users to publish anonymous posts on public social media accounts, however these platforms also spread rumors and promote a culture of cyberbullying at South.
In addition to personal attacks, users have made endangering threats including a statement made earlier this year about a student coming to South “loaded”, which was posted on the “After School” app.
Senior Class Officer Jaehun Lee says that he first dismissed the possible gun threat post as he thought it was just a prank, however, became more confused and scared as more people started to publicize the post.
“I did plan on going to school, but I looked up things like ‘what to do in a school shooting’ and that kind of stuff just in case worst came to worst,” Lee said.
Lee also decided to attend school because of the various definitions “loaded” could connote including being drunk or loaded with money.
As for the author’s intent, Lee says that the possible reasons span from encouraging violence to receiving an extra day for school work.
“It could be for attention, it could be to get an extra day of studying for a test or a paper, or it could just be a prank,” said Lee.
The obscure language and conflicting intentions causes posts like these to pose complicated issues for the administration because if the administration decides to cancel school, then it sets a precedent leading students to use anonymous threats for cancelled school.
Adding on, junior Joshua Kos agrees that “loaded” has many possible interpretations, but says he personally was not worried about attending school.
“I never even thought about missing school the next day. The number of people who did stay home surprised me,” Kos said.
Kos says that regardless of whether or not the intention was a gun threat, the person who posted it was only hoping for a school closure.
However, Kos says that he remains appreciative that precautions were taken because other students were affected by the situation.
Junior Sarah Goldstein agrees with Kos and says that students must realize that their posts have consequences and should take social media threats seriously.
Even with the prominent presence of apps like “After School” and “Ask.fm”, threats over social media are still infrequent according to Goldstein.
These apps are more frequently attributed with supporting cyber bullying and promoting a culture that breeds hostility.
Kos says that users of these apps are at fault for the cyberbullying because they knowingly put themselves in a situation where they are vulnerable to these mean questions.
English teacher Matthew Wilson also agrees with Kos and says he would not recommend using an anonymous apps as they encourage cyberbullying, even if it is students’ personal choice.
However, Wilson says that he understands why some students might argue to use these apps since when rumors are spread, some might want to defend themselves.
“You do not want to stifle a kid’s ability to talk to each other on these apps, and you also don’t want to stifle a sense of their growing freedom. What I worry about is that you have kids who may not be prepared to handle bullying,” Wilson said.
Wilson says because these apps are anonymous, it would cause the cyber bullied student to feel unable to express their frustration since they are prevented from knowing who the author is.
Adding on, sophomore Allie Riklin used to have both apps on her phone, but deleted them freshman year because she did not recognize their benefits.
Riklin downloaded “After school” because she saw that a lot of her peers used the app and wanted to see what the hype was about.
“I think people still have these apps because maybe they find them honesty exhilarating. For me it felt interesting to have people want to ask you questions, but at the same time it’s a huge platform for bullying,” Riklin said.
Due to these apps promotion of bullying and threats, Riklin says that the school has a responsibility to investigate them as online posts can generate fear and anxiety.
Lee and Goldstein agree with Riklin and do not see any benefits that annonymous apps like “Afterschool” and “Ask.fm” could bring for their users.
For students struggling with this cyber bullying, junior Endry Nunez, who uses these apps out of curiousity, recommends that others try to rise above the hateful comments.
“Personally, I don’t let these apps affect me and I haven’t seen anything too bad on there to cause a problem. Regardless, if it does bother you, you should ahead and talk to someone about it and not let it eat you up,” Nunez said.