Students had the opportunity to participate in a “Day of Love” on Tuesday in the Graduate School of Business (GSC) courtyard. Amid cupcakes and pizza, they used the new student-created website lovenotes to send anonymous messages of appreciation and gratitude to people they knew.
The festivities were organised by Sohayle Sizar MBA ’18, the creator of lovenotes.
“The goal is to make people feel good, feel loved, feel happy,” Sizar said. “And to tell everyone about [lovenotes], and for them to tell us what they want us to do with it.”
Sizar started lovenotes during his first year as a student at the GSB. Sizar sometimes felt apprehensive about expressing all the admiration he had for his classmates in GSB sections. After talking to other students about it, he realized that many others felt the same way.
“I said: why not create an anonymous way to share that positivity, because the anonymity would take away that fear of being judged,” Sizar said.
Thus, lovenotes was born.
The project started in 2016, within Sizar’s GSB section of 72 people. Around 400 notes were sent within this group, and lovenotes quickly expanded to other parts of the GSB, with students sending over 1,500 notes in the early stages of the project.
At the very beginning, the operation was simple. Senders would input their message and the recipient into a Google Form, and Sizar would manually send the notes to their recipients. However, in recent months, Sizar has revamped lovenotes in large part thanks to user feedback. The platform now has its own website, lovenotes.io, and users can create accounts to track how many notes they have sent. The site also allows people to read what other anonymous lovenotes users have written. The site, according to Sizar, is “like a public board of love.”
Since its launch, approximately 5,000 notes have been sent.
“In these crazy times, whether it’s politics, academics – a little love and positivity goes a long way,” Sizar said. “I’ve actually been shocked that people have really embraced the message and want to share it wholeheartedly.”
The ultimate goal, he said, is to make people feel loved and appreciated and to give people an avenue to express the love that they feel for others.
“It’s not just about romance or ‘Netflix and chill,’” Sizar said. “It’s about more. As I grew up, the common theme I saw was everyone loved, and they all seek love and desire to be loved. And I don’t think there’s a force more powerful than that.”
Users of the site say a large part of lovenotes’ power comes from the anonymity it provides.
“To be able to receive positive feedback anonymously from people, it’s so special.” said Linh Vo MBA ’18, a user of lovenotes. “It’s a good feeling. Nowadays, it’s so easy to send a text, but lovenotes is that extra special step.”
And even though the platform is anonymous, according to Sizar, not a single note sent has been negative.
“I made a promise to myself that if there was one note that broke someone’s heart, I would shut down the whole thing – because it’s unfair. But we didn’t have any negative notes.” Sizar said. “The things that people say are the most meaningful and loving things that I’ve ever seen on the internet.”
To guard against hate, people can block users; users are not notified if they are blocked. The site also offers a built-in moderation tool that filters out notes that might be seen as hateful. Those notes then await moderation. Out of the nearly 5,000 notes that have been sent, Sizar estimates about 1 percent have been flagged.
“And those notes were not bad,” Sizar said. “They were just people that wrote really passionately and used a couple of bad words in there.”
Sizar thinks these measures are vital. Right now, he is actively prioritizing community building over rapid growth.
“If you want to create something that’s meaningful and you want it to be alive, you have to create a community.” Sizar said. “Values, and how you make people feel, is more important than ever.”
Although expansion might not be the first priority, in the past couple months lovenotes has been growing — first from the GSB to the larger Stanford community, and now to universities across the U.S. like Harvard and the University of Rochester. Sizar is in talks with Fortune 500 companies about using lovenotes as a tool in the corporate world and is also talking with the Stanford medical school about using lovenotes as a tool to enable patients to send anonymous notes of positivity to their providers.
According to Sizar, lovenotes has the potential to be a tool to tackle burnout in nurses and doctors.
“A lot of M.D.s in my class came to me and said there’s a lot of burnout [in hospitals] —i we entered medicine to do good and now we’re just glorified bureaucrats going through patients very quickly,” Sizar said.
The hope is that by expanding lovenotes to places like Stanford Hospital, the connection between patient and physician can become stronger, and physicians can better understand the impact they have on their patients’ lives.
While Sizar will graduate from Stanford this year, lovenotes will remain. Students like Helen Lin MBA ’19, a first year GSB student, are working to expand the impact of lovenotes.
“I’m hoping I can continue [Sizar’s] legacy through events,” said Lin. “I really believe in the mission and the vision he has around this — being able to contribute and making the world slightly more positive is awesome.”
Contact Adesuwa Agbonile at firstname.lastname@example.org.