Students respond to negative tweets with positive ones

Posted: March 05, 2014

MOORESTOWN Even in anonymity, it seems, nice can triumph over nasty.

That's what Moorestown High School students are finding out, thanks to a student-run Twitter account that lets people anonymously tweet compliments and positive statements to fellow students and faculty. Since it was set up Friday night, the site has gotten several hundred followers and posted several hundred good thoughts.

The account, MHScompliments (@MHSComps14), was a response to crude and mean-spirited comments posted to the anonymous social media application Yik Yak last month. Those postings - about 200, according to interim Superintendent Timothy Rehm - upset students and staff alike. As a result, the district administration suspended a policy, new this school year, that allowed students to use their phones and other devices in school.

Monica Hernick, an 18-year-old senior, is behind the nice tweets. Friday night, she said, she was hanging out with some friends in Young Life, a Christian youth organization, when talk turned to the Yik Yak episode. She said their leader, Daniel Thompson, mentioned that at his college, there was a Facebook page that allowed students to post compliments to each other.

"I thought how cool it would be if we started one for Moorestown High School," said Hernick, who was field hockey goalie and wants to become a teacher.

Thompson, 23, a graduate of Moorestown High, said he didn't think the majority of the students were represented by the negative comments posted on Yik Yak, an app whose founders say they want it to be a tool for positive community-building.

"Anonymity can bring out the worst in people or the best, and there were too many people that let the worst come out," Thompson said. A compliments forum, he said, was an opportunity to show "as a whole, they are better than some awful comments."

So Hernick and Thompson created a Twitter account that evening. People would direct-message their compliments, and Hernick and Thompson would tweet them out anonymously on the account.

They were not prepared for the response they got.

"In less than 48 hours, we received over 650 compliments from students in Moorestown High School and built up a follow base of over 600 students," Thompson said.

"People started flooding us with compliments. I was like, 'Oh, my goodness,' " Hernick said.

Anonymously and some under their Twitter handles, people praised the school musical, one student's baking skills, another's fashion sense, and lots of people's qualities as a friend. Quite a few gave a shout-out to the compliments page itself.

Last week, administrators and students met to discuss how to go forward. One of the efforts proposed was student-run forums to promote responsible use of technology.

In the meantime, the founders of MHScompliments say they believe the response their Twitter account has received speaks for itself.

"It was truly inspiring to see so many students jump on the opportunity to build each other up and spread joy through a few compliments," Thompson said.

"I think MHScompliments shows everybody can be nice," Hernick said. "It shows the good outweighs the bad."



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