Katherine Merisotis/The Bates Student
When I was down at Boston University over the long weekend, I was scrolling through Blind Tiger, as I embarrassingly do every morning as if it’s The New York Times, when my friend told me she had never heard of the app. This made me wonder how the anonymous posting app became so popular at a school like Bates, while students at other schools have no idea what I’m talking about if I bring it up. My friend at BU made some comment about how there’s not much else to do in Lewiston, the kind of thing you’d expect someone from BU to say.
For those of you not in the know, Blind Tiger is everyone’s favorite — or least favorite, depending on who you ask — guilty pleasure app. It first rose to popularity on campus during the in-room quarantine last April, when we were confined to our rooms, extremely depressed and bored. As a safe space to vent anonymously, it became almost like a support group while students were otherwise feeling incredibly isolated. Last year, an anonymous freshman even remarked that because of COVID-19 protocols, using Blind Tiger was the most sense of community they’d experienced since arriving at Bates. At its best, Blind Tiger is essentially a big Bates student group chat.
However, as one could expect from an anonymous posting app, there is a fair amount of negativity. With young people’s mental health issues skyrocketing across the world during the pandemic, some Bates students harnessed the anonymity of Blind Tiger to represent the worst sides of themselves.
I love Bates, but like every school, it has its pros and cons. And at small schools, word travels fast and people have to watch what they say. Blind Tiger allows people who want to express potentially reputation-damaging opinions to do so without it reflecting back on them. This is why students on Blind Tiger have taken to not only complaining about their own lives, but also about the people around them — and honestly just trolling for reactions in an aggressive way that they’d never do if their name was attached to what they said. While it may have started off with good intentions, the app has turned into a display of Bates’ most cynical side, which is why the CAPS therapists know Blind Tiger by name.
And yet, so many people I know are addicted to checking it. Some enjoy it simply for the positive reinforcement of upvotes; a sophomore who chose to stay anonymous said, “I really don’t care if people know what I’ve written on Blind Tiger, because I’m honestly really funny.” But others check it regularly in order to make sure no one is talking about them, a sort of faceless witch hunt. It makes sense — it’s human nature to want to know if people are talking about you and to see what they have to say, but seeing these negative posts all the time eventually makes it hard to stay upbeat about all the things there are to love about this community. However, it can be good to warn others about specific bad situations on campus and spread the word about certain things that students otherwise wouldn’t be aware of.
Additionally, after the past couple of years everyone has had, people need the opportunity to vent without consequence. In that sense, there are positives to having this space on campus, but maybe there’s something else that could replace the sometimes pessimistic feel of the app with an optimistic one. I’m not sure what that would look like, but there has to be a better way for the Bates community to engage with one another than a depressing anonymous posting app. Maybe schools who don’t use Blind Tiger have solved that problem, or maybe students at schools like BU simply don’t have the strong desire to connect with their peers that people at small, community-loving schools like Bates do.