Brighten: the sunny side of social networking

The app Brighten allows users to give a receive anonymous compliments to their peers. (Photo credit: Alana Sullivan)

The app Brighten allows users to give a receive anonymous compliments to their peers. (Photo credit: Alana Sullivan)

It’s no secret that the rise in popularity of social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook has provided an ever-increasing number of platforms for cyberbullying and online harassment to occur. Much of this online abuse is anonymous, with computer and iPhone screens providing a barrier between victim and perpetrator. But what if social-networking anonymity could be utilized positively? Behold the app Brighten, which attempts to provide a safe place for anonymous compliment-giving and positivity.

According its App Store description – written by the app’s creators – Brighten was created in 2015 “as a genuine way for people to let their friends know how much they’re appreciated.” Its founders created the app after being touched by the hundreds of kind Facebook messages posted on a friend’s wall after he passed away. On the app, users are able to “friend” others and post anonymous compliments – known as “Brightens” – on their friends’ pages. Users can also interact with each other on a single page and comment on others’ Brightens, all anonymously.

At Mercy, use of Brighten has spread like wildfire. One would be hard-pressed to come across a student who hasn’t heard of the app, or who doesn’t already have an account herself.

Freshman Alyssa Johnston loves the app and uses it with most of her friends.

“I like Brighten because it’s always so nice,” said Johnston. “Sometimes I’ll be having a bad day and I’ll see that someone sent me a Brighten and it just makes me smile. Getting to send Brightens to other people is also just a good feeling, and it’s fun getting to see them guess who sent [the Brighten].”

Senior Jenna Chami checks her Brighten feed throughout the day.

“It’s literally the cutest thing ever,” she said. “I want to know who sends me these anonymous compliments so I can just go and give them the biggest hug because it’s so nice.”

Other students have tried the app, but do not share Chami’s enthusiasm.

“It’s okay,” said junior Charlotte Keais. “I like waking up and seeing that people sent me cute things, but it’s not like I check it nonstop or depend on those compliments to feel good about myself.”

The volatile mixture of the dependency Keais referred to and the app’s anonymity, however, could be seen as a potentially dangerous outlet for hurtful posts or unkind words to be posted. Since the only people who can give you Brightens are people you know and have accepted as friends, though, it is assumed that only those you are friendly with can send you Brightens. In addition, users have the ability to report unkind words or behavior to Brighten’s administrative team, and to delete unkind Brightens from their feeds.

While these measures cannot prevent a nasty Brighten from being sent in the first place, Chami, Johnston, and Keais stated that they don’t believe negativity on Brighten is an issue and reported never having seen a hateful post on their friends’ pages or their own. It seems that so far, the app will continue to leave people smiling, one Brighten at a time.