Sept. 22 … that was a really lovely thing you did today, giving flowers to the girls who weren't asked to homecoming. … It was really good to see …
This item is available in full to subscribers.
If you're a print subscriber, but do not yet have an online account, click here to create one.
Click here to see your options for becoming a subscriber.
If you made a voluntary contribution in 2022-2023 of $50 or more, but do not yet have an online account, click here to create one at no additional charge. VIP Digital Access includes access to all websites and online content.
… that was a really lovely thing you did today, giving flowers to the girls who weren't asked to homecoming. … It was really good to see that someone cared enough to put some good hard effort into being a good person. For a lot of us it was the highlight of our day. … Thank you so much, really.
The other day when everyone in the west atrium pitched in to help the janitors clean up/stack chairs/fold tables? Ya. That was really cool.
If you scroll through the Facebook Compliments page of Lakewood High School, you'll come across many more just like these.
“Positive words,” senior Olivia Ehret says, “have the power to change the community.”
One could say that is her mantra and why, almost a year ago, she and a friend decided to duplicate the Compliments page she had stumbled upon on the University of Southern California website.
“Oh, gosh, I was entranced by it,” Olivia remembers. “I scrolled on it for two hours. I thought if it could be implemented on such a huge campus as USC, it definitely could at Lakewood.”
Compliments, after all, are just one more way of spreading a little kindness. But the accolade-filled Facebook pages also reflect a positive use of social media in an age when it is often used as a tool for meanness and spitefulness.
Consider the recent suicide of a 12-year-old Florida girl, who investigators say killed herself after continued online harassment by two other girls, 12 and 14. There have been many other such cases reported. Federal government studies report 52 percent of students have been cyberbullied and 25 percent repeatedly through their cell phones or the Internet.
The faceless nature of social media makes it alarmingly easy to be unkind, to cause hurt without feeling or seeing the effects or repercussions. Although many describe social media as impersonal, it's actually quite the opposite. Plenty of emotion flies across the networked miles — sadly, it's often the hateful kind.
Which is what is so nice about a Compliments page: It puts the heart back into the words.
We only recently talked, but you are an amazing person inside and out. I love how you aren't afraid to be yourself, it is really inspiring! The nice things you say can make people's day, like it did mine!
One of the first such uses of social media occurred in October 2011 when a young man at Iowa City West High School created a Twitter Compliments account as a way to fight back against cyberbullying in the area. The account took off, tweeting more than 3,000 messages in three months.
Several other high schools followed, and then universities, including Columbia, Penn State and Brown, spurred the trend with Facebook pages that, for the most part, remain anonymous by asking users to send compliments to an inbox from which administrators then tag the messages to the recipient's News Feed. That's how it's done at Lakewood High School.
“It's just a nice way for people's days to be brightened,” Olivia says. “The beauty is in the mystery.”
Although the Lakewood page wasn't started as a response to cyberbullying, Olivia believes it helps keep the negativity and meanness at bay. In almost a year, there's only been one comment she's removed.
“I think we'd be a lot more positive and healthy society” if we said nicer things to each other, she says. “People would have better self-images of themselves and feel more open communication with other people. And maybe there would be less instances of bullying if people didn't feel so isolated and lonely.”
Seeing this page makes me want to transfer to Lakewood as soon as possible. I've seen bullying all around at my school. There's NO ONE that has the courage to compliment one other here. I appreciate how everyone treats each other well. …
There is an art to complimenting, though.
It must be sincere. It must be truthful. Otherwise, it loses the power to uplift and could do just the opposite, says Michael Karlson, a professor at the University of Denver's graduate school of professional psychology. An insincere compliment makes you “wonder if that other person doesn't respect you or know you.”
But a genuine one can work a little magic.
“It can activate a positive image of yourself,” Karlson says. “Sometimes, when we're feeling depressed and incompetent, it's a reminder of who we usually are.”
Olivia would agree.
“A lot of people they say the compliments have been posted at just the right time,” she says, because “they were having a rough time.”
To the girl in the bathroom who said I was pretty. … Thanks. I really needed that right then.
Olivia, quite wise at 17, has an idea about why we aren't as kind as we could be — we're afraid of the reaction, of what people might think of us.
“Society is kind of closed off in the sense that when we see something positive about someone we keep it to ourselves,” she says, “especially when it's someone we don't know that well.“
We need to take the leap. It's not that difficult.
“Kind words can be short and easy to speak,” a Missionaries of Charities Sisters once said, “but their echoes are truly endless.”
If we find we can't say them, maybe we can write them.
Oct. 13, via mobile
Luka Savarie, I don't know you at all. But I think you seem like such a cool and down to earth person. Also your haircut is SO cute.
This made my night. (smiley face) thank you so much you lovely, lovely person.
And that says it all.
Ann Macari Healey's column about people, places and issues of everyday life appears every other week. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 303-566-4110.
Other items that may interest you
We have noticed you are using an ad blocking plugin in your browser.
The revenue we receive from our advertisers helps make this site possible. We request you whitelist our site.