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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Compliments should be made in the open, not just online

Published: November 30, 2012
Section: Opinions

There has been much discussion on campus recently about Brandeis Compliments. Brandeis Compliments is a Facebook page run anonymously that publishes compliments submitted by members of the Brandeis community about their peers. These compliments are not about so-and-so having great hair or a nice car; instead, they talk about the wonderful internal characteristics that these people possess. The person in charge of the Brandeis Compliments page seems to be cultivating an online community that seeks to compliment people about their personalities not their physical appearance, which is admirable.

Everyone loves to be complimented. Self described as “a social project that aims to spread joy to the Brandeis community,” Brandeis Compliments does, indeed, seem to make people’s days better. This happiness is evident in the ecstatic thank you responses that many people post. In this day and age when the Internet’s opportunities for anonymity are often used in cruel ways, it is nice to see Brandeis students using social media for good in an effort to positively impact the lives of their peers. This idea is a noble one, but it falls flat. I don’t take issue with the desire to brighten the Brandeis campus and community through compliments, but it is the anonymity and context through which these compliments are posted that I struggle with.

There is something insincere and lacking in these anonymous messages posted on this Facebook page. Sure, Brandeis Compliments could fall under the category of “random acts of kindness.” Yet compliments shouldn’t be random. They should be deserved and stated proudly, not under the guise of anonymity. Too often today, people subvert their feelings of generosity and gratitude. A compliment is incredibly simple, yet heartfelt, if said sincerely. People deserve to be complimented by their friends because it can strengthen or deepen their relationship.

An admirable defense of this Facebook page is that Brandeis is a campus filled with shy people who maybe aren’t comfortable putting themselves into the spotlight to compliment a friend in a way that Brandeis Compliments allows through the Internet. I have personally witnessed people who are silent in real life, find refuge on the Internet. Facebook (as well as texting and email) provides us with the rare and incredible ability to handcraft and tailor our message so that it perfectly expresses what we want to articulate.

There is nothing wrong with using this ability that the Internet gives us to compliment friends. But the anonymous way in which these compliments are posted isn’t a refuge for the shy, it’s a cowardly way out of telling those closest to you, how much they mean to you. Compliments are things that everyone wishes to hear, but so rarely do we summon up the courage to deliver.

But we need to be courageous. It is easy to write a lovely message about a close friend and post it for the world to see, but doesn’t your friend deserve to be told how special they are in person? If you truly feel that your friend is underappreciated, aren’t you better served to look directly into your friend’s eyes and tell them how important they are to you?

Being characterized as effusive, gushy and mushy is considered unattractive or undesirable today. But this is the epitome of what a compliment is. The compliments being posted on Brandeis Compliments are not trivial. They are seemingly true to the strengths and goodness of the people they are flattering.

Our community would be more positively affected if instead of looking into their computer screen as they complimented a friend, the complimenters looked directly at the person they claim is so wonderful.

Brandeis prides itself on promoting a campus full of openness and communality. If we take the idea of Brandeis Compliments, to openly compliment our friends on the things we admire most about them, and bring it to real life the spirit in which Brandeis was founded would benefit greatly.