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Alison O. Malouf
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MIT students have become addicted to two new popular websites, MIT FML (http://mitfml.com/) and I Saw You MIT (http://isawyou.mit.edu/), created this past semester. Filled with anonymous, quirky, Twitter-like posts the two sites were designed to entertain, bond, and poke fun at the MIT community.

“We are living in such a stressful and yet entertaining atmosphere, it would be a great idea to have a website to show the public,” said one of the moderators of MIT FML.

The idea for MIT FML comes from the popular web site, fmylife.com; similarly, I Saw You MIT is based on isawyou.com.

Posts on both sites vary from one or two sentences to entire paragraphs and include anecdotes of everyday student life, each following a general format.

Like on fmylife.com, MIT FML posts generally start with “Today...” and end with “FML” (standing for “f­uck my life”). According to its statement of purpose, “mitfml.com is an anonymous forum for students to vent, rant, and post funny shit.” In addition to posting their own FMLs, users can comment on and either “like” or “dislike” other posts.

Showing a slightly different perspective on MIT student life, I Saw You MIT is a “place to post and browse missed connections.” All posts begin with the phrase “I saw you...” and continue to describe a sighting of another fellow student, either funny or romantic.

I Saw You MIT also provides posters with the option to allow direct replies from other viewers instead of providing space for comments.

Although both sites request that only MIT students provide content, MIT FML and I Saw You MIT are not used exclusively by MIT students. Judging by the IP addresses of posters, the moderators say that approximately 10 percent of the posts on MIT FML are made from the Wellesley area. There are also posters with Harvard and Dartmouth area IP addresses, they say.

Non-personally-identifying information such as web browsers type, language preference, referring site, and the date and time of each visitor request are collected in addition to the potentially personally identifying IP addresses. According to both sites’s terms of use and privacy policies, however, these data are not used to identify its visitors but only to better understand how visitors use their websites.

There is reason to question whether the posts are genuine or made-up scenarios to mock the sites. Alejandro J. Ruiz ’12, a sophomore at MIT, admitted to trolling both MIT FML and I Saw You MIT.

“I posted around three fake posts,” said Ruiz. “I like that I Saw You is much more awkward and easier to troll.”

Another student, who requested to remain anonymous, also trolls these sites. “Funny usually correlates with fake,” she said.

MIT FML Moderation

MIT FML is currently co-moderated by two students, who filter which posts and comments get accepted or deleted. The site started when Jonah Varon, a freshman at Harvard College, started a site called College FML by buying the FML domain names of a few colleges. Varon then asked for students from each college to moderate their own FML pages.

Both FML moderators say that they accept messages based on their originality and entertainment value. As for comments, they are much more lenient, allowing everything except for spam and the most racist and hateful ones.

Approximately three quarters of FMLs submited are posted on the website, one moderator says.

The moderators say that MIT FML is popular among a growing community of users. In December alone, it generated 13,000 page views, they said. Readership peaked around finals week, when there were around 1000 page views each day.

One post, generating 49 “likes,” simply read “Finals Week. FML.”

I Saw You Shows Similar Success

Keone D. Hon ’11 started I Saw You MIT after he stumbled on I Saw You Harvard. “It’s really just for fun, it’s a place to post missed connections, but you didn’t really get a chance to talk to them, and an opportunity to say ‘hey, maybe we should meet up,’” he said.

Like MIT FML, I Saw You MIT shows signs of growing popularity, generating around 600 page views in 4 days, says Hon. They also saw a dramatic peak in postings during finals weak, when around 40 posts were submitted each day.

According to user-supplied data associated with each I Saw You post, women are doing most of the spotting at MIT; 44 percent of the posts were “female spotting male” while “male spotting female” was only 29 percent of the posts. “Male spotting male” was 15 percent and “female spotting female was 13 percent.” The class of 2012 is also the most avid poster among the groups at MIT, posting 36 percent, followed closely by the class of 2013 who posted 28 percent. And the best place for spotting people at MIT? The Student Center, of course.

Hon set up the website and formed a team of collaborators including Tim Stumbaugh ’12, Brandon H. Baker ’12, and Anthony J. Morelli ’12.

Most posts are accepted with the exception of some inside jokes and those that don’t seem to make any sense. Some of the common themes that turn up on I Saw You MIT are one-sided love, “you’re hot” comments, wishes to get to know each other better, and some are pure observations.

In keeping with one of its goals to catch up on missed connections, I Saw You MIT added a direct reply function over Winter break, that allowed posters to allow others (presumably the one who they are posting about) to contact them, while still maintaining anonymity.

So far there have been around 10 posts that have chosen to utilize direct reply.

The I Saw You MIT team plans on adding more features to the site in the future.