In the device-oriented world we live in, it can seem like everyone is constantly on their phone or computer. This leaves many people vulnerable to online bullying and criticism.
That’s why 25-year-old Austin Kevitch created the app Brighten, which allows users to send compliments to friends anonymously. Kevitch told the New York Times that more than 10 million messages have been sent by its one million users, many of whom are in college and high school.
Kevitch first thought of the idea for Brighten in 2013 at Bucknell University. His close friend had died in a climbing accident and his Facebook page was apparently flowing with positive memories and stories. Kevitch said he wished his friend could have read the messages while he was still alive. This inspired Kevitch to build the app. He first envisioned his idea as a digital compliment box.
There are many reasons bullying can still occur in college, according to nobullying.org. There is less direct authority in college opposed to high school. People are in control of their lives and think that gives them the right to act however they like. Others might bully because because of academic or peer pressure. If someone feels threatened in a classroom or party setting, naturally, they want to defend themselves. This could lead to rude or degrading comments for no good reason.
Center for Womyn’s Concerns president Sydney Dixon said this app has the potential to start conversations and spread the message that bullying should never be tolerated.
“I think with this app, they’re trying to promote and create a safe space that makes for more friendly communication,” Dixon said.
Dixon recalls when the app Yik Yak was popular at PSUC and she witnessed many users post hurtful things anonymously about fellow students. She said there are a lot of different ways to compliment people in your everyday lives even if it’s as simple as complimenting someone’s shoes in the bathroom.
“It’s important to say kind things to people you care about,” Dixon said.
According to a Health Day News study, 15 percent of college students studied reported being bullied, and nearly 22 percent reported cases of cyberbullying. In the same study, it was discovered that 38 percent of college students knew someone who was a victim of cyberbullying.
This app is designed to help combat these unnecessary attacks on people. In 2014, within three months of the app’s release, 5,000 users were involved. “It feels good to make someone smile,” the app’s tagline reads.
Doing kind things for others should always be a priority. Bullying is for children who don’t know any better, not college-educated students.
Brighten is looking to team up with other anti-bullying platforms such as Kind Campaign, a nonprofit group aimed to combat “girl on girl” bullying as well as Be Cool Be Nice, a social media campaign started by Willow Smith and Kendall Jenner, which stands by the idea that “Kindness is always in style.”
You can spread positivity among your own friend group by downloading this app or creating your own compliment box. All you need is an old tissue or shoe box to poke a hole in and drop pieces of paper into. After a period of time, you can take out all the compliments and read them aloud. It seems simple and childish, but spreading happiness and positivity does nothing but good.
Brandon Chin, a PSUC junior majoring in mathematics and information technology, said he has seen bullying at social events in college and hopes an app like this can help spread optimism throughout campuses.
“The art of complimenting is not only a powerful social skill,” Chin said. “It is one of the most fundamental.
Chin said complimenting a person requires zero effort but needs to be authentic.
“You do not need to be an expert to do it well,” he said. “You just need to be genuine.”
Email Laura Schmidt at firstname.lastname@example.org