I’ve made a minor addition to my blog. On the right, right under the search box, you’ll find a formspring.me widget. If you’re not familiar with it, formspring is an application that allows users to send, receive and respond to questions. The default header on the question box is “Ask me anything.” and questions may be authored or asked anonymously (account holders do have the option to disallow anonymous questions).
I signed up for formspring.me approximately 5 months ago. In that time I have received nearly 40 questions. I have answered 10, and each time I scan my inbox, I am faced with the dilemma: Do I want to commit to answering every question that is asked of me? Why wouldn’t I want to answer every question, you ask? Well, take a look at 10 questions sitting quietly in my inbox, waiting for me to answer them.
The questions are overwhelmingly personal. In fact, the only ones I would not consider personal are ten favorite records, five minutes of fame, and consider yourself friendly. The having children question, though highly personal, is one that I’m happy to answer. But many of the others are just, well… odd. They are not they type of questions I was expecting, and some leave me slightly uncomfortable. For example:
Is it weird that you missed me? Maybe not if I no-showed on an event you were expecting me to attend, or if we’re friends but haven’t spoken in awhile. But maybe so if it was a romantic notion, since I haven’t been connected to anyone in that manner for quite some time. Is the question weird? Ummm…kinda. Is the question inappropriate? That depends not only on who is asking (which I don’t know), but also on my intentions for using formspring.
I am a compulsive joiner, often signing up for online applications purely to see what all the fuss is about. I also tend to be very open in both online and offline conversations, frequently talking about subjects and happenings that are not related to my professional career. Thus, in the absence of a stated purpose for using formspring, it would be safe to assume that the purpose is not (or not limited to) professional application (assuming, of course, we ignore for just a minute that part of my job as a social media strategist is to know about things like formspring).
Which questions are appropriate, and which are just plain questionable?
I have no doubt that the more questionable questions are enabled by anonymity, because with anonymity comes freedom. An asker may pose whatever question they choose without fear that they or their intentions will be revealed. They may ask questions that are highly personal not only to me, but also to themselves. I, however, can not answer anonymously, which means I must determine if I want to respond to every question I am asked and how open I want to be in my responses.
Consider that some answers open the door to further questions. The two crush question you see in photo above were submitted only after I answered Who is your secret crush? Consider also that anonymous questions may prompt guarded responses. To a known asker, I might have answered the good looking question with flirtatious banter or sarcastic humor if I knew either to be relevant to my relationship with that individual, but to an anonymous asker, I will likely answer with a relatively unrevealing statement on confidence in one’s appearance answered with a quip about beauty versus brains.
My question(s) to you, particularly to other formspring.me users:
- What is your purpose for using formspring.me?
- How will you approach questions that don’t align with that purpose (too personal, off-topic, etc.)?
- How do you approach questions asked anonymously?
- Would you commit to answering every question that was asked of you?