The Harbinger Online

Tweeting with Tenderness

When it first started last November, it was just another anonymous Twitter account at East. Made to say “mildly nice things about people,” @SME_Positweets countered disparaging remarks about students that came from any number of fake accounts with more upbeat and positive compliments. For East student John Smith*, Positweets is an attempt at giving East a more positive online reputation.

“I started Positweets at kind of the peak of the Twitter wars at East,” Smith said. “A lot of people were being targeted by these accounts and it just created a very hostile environment.”

Smith admits that originally Positweets was meant to be somewhat of a joke, a half-hearted attempt at saying nice things about students that had been called out. As time went on and the account got more followers, Smith realized the potential of the account for doing good at school.

“I could put a more positive spin on things that go on at East,” Smith said. “I could try and change the negative views of our school that people could get by seeing what happens on social media.”

The account didn’t catch on among the students immediately, however. It took going through and following as many East students as possible and then generating these tweets on a consistent basis to start drawing attention.

“I had been tweeting some but kind of forgot about it. One day I saw a couple of students had tweeted at the account saying they missed it or they wanted it back so I started tweeting more and it just picked up speed,” Smith said.

Smith began using the account more frequently, seeking out students to tweet about, interacting with other users and creating an image for the account. The number of followers began to climb, and students could be overheard talking about the account in the halls. Some of it was speculation over who was behind the account, but it was mostly about recent tweets about students. Smith decided that there was an opportunity to really do good for the student body, but the account would have to become more encompassing and reach more students.

[media-credit id=135 align=”alignleft” width=”281″][/media-credit]“It started to get difficult to tweet nice things,” Smith said. “It’s hard to know an entire school. That’s when I started taking direct messages, and things really took off from there.”

The direct messaging allowed for other students on Twitter to send suggestions to the account. Instead of just Smith recognizing students for a job well done, the account began incorporating suggestions from the student body.

“It was really cool because the account became more of a megaphone for the school,” Smith said. “Instead of just me coming up with these things, students were able to say nice things about each other.”

Smith began struggling to keep up with the high number of direct messages coming in to the account. Several individuals had messaged the account inquiring about the possibility of helping out, including a close friend. It was towards of the end of the 2011-2012 school year that Smith decided it was time to bring someone else into the fold.

“It was hard at first to be open to bringing on someone new,” Smith said. “I started it out of my own ambitions, and the anonymity was very important as well as finding someone who felt the same about the purpose of the account.”

Keeping in mind the increase in traffic, Smith decided it was an opportune time to approach a trustworthy friend who had messaged the account about working together.

Once Jamie Scott* found out who was behind the account, they wasted little time in teaming up.

“I asked Smith specifically who was behind the account because I had heard some rumors and wanted to know if they were true,” Scott said. “It was after the first time we talked about it and I sent a direct message that Smith told me who was behind it and asked if I wanted to be involved.”

Now with people driving the account, they were able to create an even larger influence and increase the number of tweets and followers.

It’s hard to know an entire school.

“With two of us it really became much easier to handle,” Smith said. “At the beginning of the summer we wanted to tweet a lot and reach 500 followers before school started up again. We began dividing up the direct messages and really doing things 50/50 and getting a lot done.”

As time went on they realized the advantage of having two individuals involved in the account.

“We both kind of have our circles and activities that we do,” Scott said. “With both of us doing our own things plus the direct messages, we can really reach out to a lot more students and reach more kids.”

While neither can be certain how much of an effect the account has had on the student body, Smith believes that it has changed his outlook on the school and some of its inhabitants.

“It’s really cool when you get direct messages from people you wouldn’t expect to get them from,” Smith said. “There are people that you have this perception of, then they send us these really nice compliments, or other people send us this really nice compliments about them. The anonymity of the account really gives us a different perspective on what goes on.”

It’s for that very reason the anonymity of the account is so important to Smith and Scott. They believe that if students knew who was behind the account, the integrity of its tweets would be significantly hurt and they may not mean as much if people knew who or where they were coming from. However, they don’t let the seriousness of the account get in the way of having some fun with it.

“The great thing about having two of us doing it is we have very different styles,” Scott said. “Smith is usually wittier, but we both enjoy making funny or silly tweets. It’s fun for us, and we hope it’s fun for the people receiving them.”

Both Smith and Scott are hoping to keep the account running after they leave East.

“We’re putting off passing the torch as long as possible,” Smith said. “It’s hard to find someone that we think matches our dedication or beliefs, we want to find someone to keep the account alive while maintaining its purpose.”

Now with 566 followers, Scott and Smith feel the account has definitely helped change some attitudes at East, but they hope they can continue to grow and fulfill their original intent.

“I started Positweets to try and fight some of the negativity surrounding the school,” Smith said. “It’s turned into a way to highlight people that may not normally get attention. East is a big school and it’s easy to get lost in it. Not everybody can be a varsity athlete, and a lot of the kids that aren’t still do some pretty cool things that otherwise they may not get recognized for.”

*Names changed to protect their identity

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