In high school I worked at a place called The Zone, a laser tag/bounce house/arcade/pizza restaurant. My job title was “Party Hero,” which basically meant I was the person that came with your birthday party package. It was my job to keep kids birthday parties running smoothly from start to finish. That means that I got very good at cutting cake, making gift lists, and getting pizza sauce out of my hair (don’t ask). Part of my job was learning jokes, games, and magic tricks to keep the kids entertained while they were in the party room. My most important task was to keep the Party Mom happy, which often felt like wrestling a stressed, pregnant alligator with a Prozac hangover.
One weekend I got assigned to a rather large boys birthday party. Bigger groups warranted having two party heroes on hand, so I was paired with my friend, Sean, who was skilled in the juggling arts. He wanted to entertain the kids and asked if I’d be his assistant for a particularly complicated juggling trick. We stood on separate sides of the party room. While he juggled, it was my job to throw additional balls into the mix from across the way. After his fourth ball, I hurled the fifth towards him. Unfortunately my aim is only accurate about 15% of the time and this time the ball went hurtling toward the Party Mom. WHACK! The ball flew right into her face. And I was mortified.
Let’s just say I didn’t get a tip.
Words can hurt. Especially when they are broadcast across the interwebs. Recently, cyberbullying has a become a very real and serious threat in our society, leading to many lawsuits and, unfortunately, suicides. Many people have tried to curb this trend through legislation (and attempted censorship). While I’m not exactly sure how I feel about the politics of the issue, I definitely think that part of the solution lies with training at home.
Everyone is pretty familiar with the autocorrect feature on mobile phones. It’s ability to come up with the least likely words you’d ever want to use is uncanny and has led to the “autocorrect fail” phenomenon. Aside from its inherent flaws, the feature could be used to promote good – and curb cyber-bullying.
Enter my invention, “Autocompliment”. Autocompliment will recognize any negative word you type and automatically change it into a positive one.
Without Autocompliment: “You are such a slut.”
With Autocompliment: “You are such a good person.”
The app could be downloaded to your or your child’s smart phone and connect with your phone’s keyboard similar to how the (irritatingly) popular emoji apps do it. And, just like autocorrect, you can choose whether to accept or reject the change. However, the key to Autocompliment, is that you receive points for choosing positive words over negative ones. Users can redeem those points for swag like iTunes downloads or movie tickets.
The app could either be used as a preventative measure to merely increase awareness of the amount of negativity users emote or as an instructive tool for those guilty of cyberbullying.
It’s small and it’s simple. But I think it could do a lot of good. Or at least help spread the word about online bullying.