‘Behind a digital curtain’- Are students abusing the LiveSafe App?

By Annie Serkes

Contributing Writer

During the first week back on campus, I received a phone call from Student Life, in reference to an anonymous report that was made about me by another student through the Live- Safe app. I was confused as to why I was singled out from the many other students who may have bent the rules the first night on campus. Sure enough, it was through social media. A screenshot from my private social media account, showing a possible violation of a new rule on campus, had been sent anonymously through LiveSafe. I was appalled because one of my friends would rather hide through the LiveSafe app, rather than confront me personally about their feelings on the situation.

The new COVID-19 rules were an adjustment for everyone the first day back, and there were definitely some misunderstandings about the rules throughout the first couple of weeks. I had expressed to Student Life that I was unclear about the new COVID-19 rules when the report was made, but I was willing to face the consequences. Student Life reassured me they were just taking precautionary measures to limit contact before test results returned. Though I had misunderstood the rules, knowing that students had the ability to anonymously report others at their fingertips made me feel extremely uncomfortable. How can students just sit behind a screen and feel the need to tattle on others? Aren’t we old enough to confront others in person? What happened to our striving community of integrity and inclusion?

“Our ability to influence people and their actions from behind a digital curtain offers a challenge, we’re in a society that needs more trust not less, and we have more and more devices that break down trust than we do build it,” said Doug Babcock, director of Public Safety.

“Everyone is on the same page. We all want to stay here but we need to find a happy medium where we can communicate directly with each other, rather than resort to reporting through LiveSafe,” says Maddie Gervais ’21.

In contrast to the normal college experience, this semester, students are more concerned for their health and safety which has created an overwhelming sense of anxiety around the virus. There are many students who take COVID-19 seriously. Most are looking out for the safety of our campus, which is totally valid. But should minor reports regarding the new protocols be sent through the LiveSafe app?

Technology today has given us an easy way to communicate but has us straying away from real face to face communication. Why are we using technology to tiptoe around confrontation? Though LiveSafe is intended to keep people safe and keep users anonymous, it allows easy access to single others out, creating a whistleblowing culture where students can use it in spite of others.

As young adults preparing for the real world, it is unsettling that some students are unable to confront others about small issues. An issue regarding another student could be discussed directly with the student or with an RA, before reporting through the LiveSafe app, which notifies Public Safety.

“That’s the learning process. Part of it should be learning interpersonal relationships, you’re not always going to have LiveSafe. Our society has moved more towards a reliance on external authority rather than empowering ourselves,” Babcock said.

After discussing the frequent Live- Safe reports with public safety and student life, I was not surprised that there was an overflow of tips regarding small coronavirus guidelines such as students not wearing masks outside. Some tips have been made through screenshots, showing students off-campus, that are sent in from others social media accounts. The issue with reports like this is that students aren’t breaking any rules because they have the freedom to go off campus but it’s their responsibility to take precautions and stay safe. Social media has made it easier to find out what others are doing at all times, leaving no room for privacy.

I experienced this first hand, and I take full responsibility for my actions, but not all reports from social media are valid. Rather than making a report right away, first, try talking to the student you feel is violating a rule. Even sending them a text expressing your concern is a better solution before getting public safety involved.

The last thing we need right now is to create a toxic culture on our campus. We are all trying our best to follow the new COVID protocol in keeping our campus safe and healthy. Now more than ever, it is crucial for us to stick together and get through this pandemic.

Annie Serkes is a junior majoring in Business Administration. She is a student-athlete on the Women’s Tennis team and a representative for Hope Happens Here.