UNT Compliments spreads positivity online

UNT Compliments spreads positivity online

UNT Compliments spreads positivity online
March 10
00:04 2015

Samantha McDonald / Senior Staff Writer

When UNT Compliments started in August 2013, it was a website dedicated to informing students of activities and events happening on campus.

From athletics to student organizations, the account began as a source of news for the UNT community, but all of that changed five months later when the engineering sophomore who created the pages added one function: an anonymous submission form.

That first day, the creator said UNT Compliments received 20 comments from students of different majors and concentrations. The creator, who asked not to be named as part of the site’s anonymity, said the number of visitors and compliments have been increasing ever since.

“We’re beginning to be recognized by actual university Twitters, like UNT News and UNT Social,” she said. “It’s really growing on a more professional level.”

UNT Compliments, which has an online presence on both Facebook and Twitter, uses tags and mentions to link compliments to individuals and organizations. Those who express their gratitude remain unidentified.

The creator said she has received feedback that the anonymity provided by the website has bothered some people, and she said it is understandable.

“If you have something nice to say, then there shouldn’t be any fear saying that to somebody’s face, but I also think it makes it fun to see that somebody from the shadows has recognized that you’re doing a good job or you looked good that morning,” she said. “It’s a guessing game.”

Recipients range from bus drivers (“Here’s to the bus drivers for driving in the bad weather and being in good spirits about it!”) and employers (“Tribute to the Eagle Alert man retiring. He has changed and improved so many lives.”) to fraternities (“@OXDeltaPhi- You guys are absolutely precious and I’m glad I #‎TeamPhi with y’all!”) and random students (“Shelbie Sumter – One of the finest women on campus.

“We get some compliments that are really deep and raw,” the creator said. “It’s absolutely beautiful to pass on and see just how happy people are.”

Among these students is hospitality management junior Hannah Fudge, who first heard about UNT Compliments from a friend in her class. It wasn’t long before she received two of her own – the first calling her “a literal ball of sunshine on this Earth” and the second from someone who wrote “I’ll never regret the day that I met her.”

“They definitely brightened my day and made me feel appreciated and made me love UNT even more than I already do,” she said. “I love that you might be having an awful day, and then all of a sudden you get a compliment from somebody random, and it turns your whole day around.”

Behind the screen

The website is managed by the creator and her friend, a political science and marketing sophomore, who joined the administration in the summer of 2014 and also requested not to be identified by name.

The two students got to know one another during their freshman year. That summer, the creator said she was a residence hall assistant while the editor was an orientation leader. They bonded over mutual friends and a passion to say thank you to those who contribute directly or indirectly to the UNT community.

Both the creator and the editor have access to the UNT Compliments Facebook and Twitter pages. They are responsible for posting compliments, and if needed, censoring those considered questionable or inappropriate. The editor said this is needed in order to maintain optimism, instead of negativity, on the website.

“One of the best things about being editor at UNT Compliments is that we really make a positive impact on someone, and it goes a long way – a longer way than most people would ever understand or appreciate,” he said. “Just to see someone take time out of their day to be able to send positivity toward someone else’s way means a lot to that someone.”

Despite the surge in online traffic, UNT Compliments continues to retweet or do shout-outs for various student and UNT organizations. The editor said this allows them to promote campus diversity and build relationships with members of the UNT community.

“We try to help out in any way possible so that we can help impact the student body and help other organizations get their names out there,” he said.

As director of public relations at the UNT chapter of the Delta Gamma sorority, merchandising junior Katie Blackwell said she has noticed an increasing number of compliments about her organization that are retweeted or reposted on UNT Compliments’ social media accounts.

“It’s really nice to see people recognizing the positive attitudes of your organization,” Blackwell said. “I think it’s cool [UNT Compliments is] anonymous as you never know whose day you are making brighter, and you get to see all the great things people in the UNT community are doing.”

Fad or forever?

UNT Compliments is not the only online outlet for students who want to voice their thoughts anonymously.

Created in February 2013, the UNT Confessions Facebook page gives students the opportunity to speak their minds about certain people, places or events at UNT or in the Denton area. Submissions provide anonymity, and the page – along with its parent website, College Confessions – is not affiliated with any college or university.

Since creator Taylor Payne graduated in August 2014, the page has seen only five posts, and submissions are almost entirely absent.

“I think sites like this are a fad,” strategic social media professor Samra Bufkins said. “It’s a little bit like the modern-day equivalent of the old passing notes that kids did years ago.”

Although UNT Compliments encourages positive submissions and will delete anything the creator and editor deem slightly offensive, UNT Confessions often had posts that spanned from impractical humor (“The best advice my Grandpa ever gave me: Never trust a fart.”) to outright profane (“My mom is [expletive] crazy. For a Hispanic woman, the [expletive] acts so white and snobby. Someone needs to pull the huge stick out of her [expletive].”).

“UNT Confessions was frequently rude. There were some posts that I would have considered almost bullying, and there were some posts that I think were quite frankly fabricated for sensationalism,” Bufkins said. “[UNT Compliments] is kind of a near way for people to say something positive. I see it as harmless fun.”

While the fun lies in the anonymity, psychology professor Lawrence Schneider said individuals don’t need to hide their identities online if they have good intentions.

“I don’t know that it makes a lot of difference whether it’s anonymous or whether it’s signed,” he said. “The person making it might wish to be anonymous, but I’d imagine that for the person on the receiving end, it wouldn’t matter whether it was anonymous or signed.”

Schneider likened the website to an everyday version of the National Random Acts of Kindness Day, which occurs annually on Feb. 17 and encourages people to do a good deed for somebody, whether it’s a loved one or a stranger on the street.

“Everybody likes compliments,” Schneider said. “It confirms that they did something good [or] something valuable that people attach significance to, and it got their attention.”

Upon graduation, the creator and editor said they intend to pass down administration of the page to a freshman student and mutual friend. The creator said she hopes the future editor will continue the tradition of recognizing people and organizations for their achievements at UNT.

“I think throughout my entire undergraduate career, despite what I do with my degree, which is very important, UNT Compliments is the single most important thing I will have accomplished by the time I graduate,” she said.

Featured Image courtesy of UNT Compliments Twitter page.

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