When I friended Yale Compliments on Facebook a few weeks ago, I did so under the impression that I would be tagged in a post soon after. The red speech bubble containing the number “1” would appear at the top of the page, and in one click, I could read the kind words a friend (but hopefully my crush) had sent in.
“Will Adams is smart, funny and caring. He’s so multitalented too, like with his music skillz and his red hair skillz and his charming demeanor skillz. But he’s so humble about it and that’s what’s great about him! Any girl would be Krazy with a kapital K not to date this studmuffin.”
As of writing, this has not happened yet. :’(
Yale Compliments embodies the excesses of social networking, indulging our desire to have our personae manifested on the Interwebs. I discovered Yale Compliments during Thanksgiving break, when I had nothing better to do than to trawl my news feed. It inspired the most cynical of reactions. There was its debt to the cloying, hyper-positive aesthetic of “Glee” & Co. There was its user-generated messiness: half of the compliments barely qualify as such, unless you consider having “the finest ass of them all” a truly worthwhile pat on the back. There was its meaningless function: if everyone is the BEST person at Yale, then no one is. There was its inherent narcissism: you have to be a friend of Yale Compliments in order to be tagged but not to read or submit compliments, so a friend request suggests little more than a desire to be publicly lauded. Yale Compliments’ mission involves “[spreading] joy to the Yale Community.” Since friending her, I have received nary a trace of joy. Really, whenever the daily deluge of praises of people I don’t even know pours into my news feed, I groan.
Perhaps I’m the problem. My unwillingness to view Yale Compliments as anything beyond a conduit for self-serving validation could mean that I’m just an asshole. Recoiling when people who I think suck receive praise and 53 “likes” suggests the same. But my annoyance is only ancillary to the real problem with Yale Compliments: the implication that without it, Yale would be joyless, students would feel unloved, and Cross Campus would look like that part in “Mean Girls” when the Burn Book becomes public. Our comfort with oversharing on the Internet has reached a fever pitch. To show appreciation for someone now requires an anonymous public post that over 1,900 people can see. To show appreciation for someone showing appreciation now requires a click of a thumbs-up icon. Yale Compliments champions this kind of passive activism, a system that allows its participants get by with the bare minimum.
Is this platform even necessary, though? I would love to receive a daily email containing all the nice things my friends bothered to write to me, which I would read over breakfast. I won’t derive any fuzzy feelings from strangers reading about how nice/attractive/extremely attractive I am. I’d rather speak for myself and prove to you that I am the person that my hypothetical submission said I was (or maybe not — remember, I’m an asshole). In short: Let’s throw Yale Compliments into a well. My day-to-day interactions with Yale students cast them in a far better light than black-on-white text will ever do.