Monday, March 22, 2010

Ask Me Anything! The Rise of Formspring

For the last several weeks, I’ve been posting random updates on Facebook and Twitter soliciting people to “Ask Me Anything!” For those not in the know, Formspring is one of the latest Internet fads floating around. Several of my students started accounts, so I thought I’d check it out. The premise is this – a platform where people can ask whatever question they want, and you can choose to respond. They can ask anonymously or with their user information, and given the platform, most opt to ask anonymously. I thought it might be a fun experiment to see what types of things would be asked and see whether or not the platform had anything interesting to offer in terms of pop-culture value.

After several weeks and 30+ questions, I don’t think it’s valuable for the most part. Sure, if you are interested in asking someone something but you’re intimidated by them or you aren’t sure how to ask, it helps you out. But I find the system a way to passive-aggressively deal with issues that would be better dealt with in person. I didn't get a whole lot of that in terms of questions asked of me (sans bitch question), but I did find myself thinking, “Oh! I should ask so-and-so this question!” only to start to type it into the box and then think, “Why ask it here when I’m going to see him/her in an hour and I can ask them then?” So, I think there’s potential in this being a useful tool if people are geographically estranged or aren’t entirely familiar enough to ask what they perceive to be sensitive questions. But more often than not, I found myself staring at a blank screen thinking, “What if I have nothing to ask you?” Which, ironically, was one of my favorite questions asked of me. :o)

BUT, I’m not entirely ready to scrap the system. I think a lot of people use technology as a social buffer – we used to ask friends to do recon for us if we thought someone was interesting or wanted to know if they had a problem with us, and now we use these public forums as a way to screen individuals to see whether or not they are interpersonally interesting to us. So, in that sense, I think the platform offers quite a bit – but it has to be matched to the audience, and for the most part, Formspring only works for people asking questions to those who are friends enough to know the person in some kind of technological context (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) to get the link to Formspring. So perhaps I’ll leave it open a bit longer as this blog has a different kind of traffic and see if any interesting questions pop up. If not, I’ll probably scrap this and move on to some new pop culture fad – all those who want to know things about me will just have to figure out how to ask without the veil of anonymity!

So if you feel like saving it, “Ask Me Anything!”


  1. yeah. i don't really get it. maybe i'll ask you questions when im no longer at CNU... but until then, i know your office hours ;) i guess self-disclosing to the internet is not my style. then again, i got a blog!

  2. I understand the benefit of it for people who embrace a lifestyle that others may be curious about, such as sexuality, polyamory, religion (or lack thereof), child-rearing outside of society's norms, etc.

    It opens the doors for communication that might not exist elsewhere. (Facebook and twitter have user-restrictions, so if you want to ask an anonymous question to someone who seems to have some level of expertise in an area, it isn't really all that possible.)

    However, asking questions of people you see or talk to regularly, yeah, either very passive-aggressive or relying too heavily on technology for your interpersonal connections.

  3. @hippie - Yes, I agree with you on the taboo topics point. But I'm not sure I've seen it used that way. Have you? Point me in the direction of someone using it for those kinds of things if you have it.