New on your newsfeed: Eph Compliments spreads cheer

Since it was born just a little more than a week ago on Nov. 23, Eph Compliments has established itself as one of the most popular members of the College Facebook community. “Eph’s” Facebook presence is a little unusual; the profile only has two photos but posts from 12 to over 50 times a day, and several people always “like” the statuses. With 1219 Facebook friends as of Monday, she has caught the attention of more than half of the College student body.

Eph Compliments is a program modeled after the now-discontinued social networking site LikeALittle and similar compliments-based projects at Princeton, Columbia and Queen’s University, and aims to facilitate the exchange of anonymous comments and shoutouts among students at the College. The program aims to “share love and cheer across campus,” according to Eph’s “About” page.

I discovered the program when a wave of my entrymates were tagged in anonymous compliments. A quick Facebook search led me to Eph Compliments. In no time at all, I had clicked the “About” link and submitted a compliment of my own. The simple document contained a warning to keep my compliment respectful with a reminder that it would be filtered if negative or insulting, one box to type my compliment and a second box to tag the complimented person on Facebook. After 10 minutes of brainstorming and perfecting my most succinct and sincere sentiments, I submitted my compliment.

In less than three hours my comment appeared, subject conveniently tagged. Several friends of my subject liked the status, and she quickly noticed it herself. Because I included several inside jokes, she suspects I was behind it. However, she has no hard evidence and I have yet to confirm my involvement.

While students at the College continue to make Eph the most popular “person” on campus, the student behind Eph Compliments remains anonymous and plans to stay that way. Through my e-mail interview with the person, I could tell “Eph” is a truly philanthropic founder who cares about the program’s purpose over its popularity. I was struck by “Eph’s” sincerity and generosity when this individual explained the project as a product of his or her own occasional struggling at the College and desire to bring the student body closer.

Considering its skyrocketing popularity, Eph’s creator says the project isn’t overwhelmingly difficult to manage for the time being. However, general maintenance does require several hours be spent screening and posting each day, which required Eph Compliments’ founder to recruit another person to help run the page. Eph admits the project comes with a bit of a time commitment, but optimistically says that it’s a good use of time previously surfing the Internet, and that spending such time spreading praise is much more rewarding than mindless procrastination.

Another challenge Eph faces is Facebook’s policy of limiting the number of posts a member can publish at once, especially since certain times of day are busier than others, particularly late evenings. Maintaining anonymity has been also been a little challenging.

Most messages are to students, but President Falk has also received a compliment, as has Professor of Statistics Andrey Glubokov. I spoke to several student recipients of Eph Compliments; some have found out who sent their compliments, but others still don’t know. Whether or not the program’s anonymity is complete, it serves its larger purpose; every recipient I spoke with sincerely appreciated the compliment. “I personally loved my compliment,” Kimmy Golding ’16 said. Jake Butts ’14 agreed: “It made my day, especially since I was kind of overwhelmed with work,” he said. Another compliment recipient, Jackie Lane ’16, described her personalized post as “incredibly sweet.”

Many compliments contain inside jokes that suggest their writers. Chris Huffaker ’15 knows who wrote his compliment, which contained the phrase, “I have never seen anyone abide by the honor code the way you do.” “There is only one person who would have any reason to particularly associate me with the honor code,” Huffaker explained, a fact which made the search for his complimenter fairly simple. Sara Hassan ’15 recognized her roommate’s voice behind her compliment: “First she denied it, but I know her too well so it was clear to me that it was her. Later she admitted it,” she said. Golding’s message also contained an inside joke that hinted at its writer. Some compliments are just plain humorous, though: Eva Fourakis ’16 recounted, “My compliment was, ‘Eva, there isn’t a cat in the entire world that wouldn’t want to be BFFs with you.’ How did everyone know how much I love cats?” she laughed.

Despite this trend, there are also many recipients of compliments who do not know who was behind the message. “I do not know who sent me my Eph Compliment, but I would love to find out so I can thank them!” Golding said.

It seems that most people discover the program through word of mouth. Huffaker discovered the program on the day it was created, when a friend suggested he friend “Eph.” Golding noticed Eph Compliments when a Facebook friend posted a status about it. Others, like Lane, discovered the program when they received a compliment. Messaging tends to go “through social circles,” according to Hassan, where one member of a group writes a compliment and then their friends “all discover the page and end up writing things about people they know.” Hassan’s take seems right to me; Eph Compliments became something of a fad in my entry this month.

Many recipients plan to pass the favor forward. Hassan plans to write to “a friend of a friend” who “just makes you feel instantly at ease when you’re with them.” Butts has “a list of people” he will soon message, and Golding will be “writing one in the future. There are so many people to compliment at Williams.”

While the creator behind Eph Compliments remain a mystery, the program seems to be a huge success. Golding feels “a lot of love going around campus” and Hassan thinks Eph Compliments “brings a really positive energy into the community … I go on a liking frenzy every time new comments come out,” she said.

Butts hopes the program “will lead to a community where people are more willing to compliment each other face to face,” and noted that “Williams is a great community, but there is always room for improvement.” While Butts looks forward to more real-world kindness, Hassan appreciates the benefits of anonymity: “My friends and I compliment one another a lot but it’s usually on outward beauty or clothing,” she said. Hassan went on to explain that Eph Compliments makes it “a lot easier to compliment someone on something meaningful and inner when it’s anonymous. It’s harder to randomly say this deep thing about how much someone means to you in a regular interaction.”