I have been a listener at 7 cups for about 3 years right now, this was my experience so far…
7 Cups of Tea is a website and app based on the premise that, while some people want guidance from certified professional therapists, others just need someone to vent to.
Essentially, 7 cups is a matching service: It is a service in which you (as a “Member”) can connect with people who wish to listen to other people (called “Listeners”)
The way I found 7 cups are I was talking to a person to whom I had connected online and we both had a common trait of liking to help people and the problem which we both had faced was that people are not generally open to telling their problems to friends, maybe cause they don’t have one whom they trust or are afraid they might judge them and she told me that she had started exploring 7 cups and thought I might like it. Initially, I was skeptical but decided to give it a go.
The main reason I went ahead was helping other people always kind of helped me solve my problems.
When I started the process of becoming a listener there was an initial screening, which took me about 20 minutes to complete, it involved things such as
It was pandering, but mindful, start: The test emphasized that Listeners should ask active, validating questions, and never offer personal opinions or give advice.
…And that was it. Suddenly, I was taken to the Listener dashboard, which showed 40-odd members waiting for a Listener to connect. A pop-up window obscured the majority of the screen and chirped: “Right now, we have lots of people waiting to connect with a Listener. We would be very thankful if you could take a general chat request!”
Shocked by how quickly I was allowed to enter real interactions, confused about where all that promised training was, and vaguely suspecting that this was still part of the initial test, I thought, “I can do this!” and entered my first chat.
Listener’s initial chats are always guided, with the chat window pre-filling the types of responses that Listeners should always strive to provide:
What do you feel you should do in this situation?
I hear you, and I can understand why that would be frustrating.
You are the expert here. I can’t give advice, but I can listen and help you figure out your path forward.
I was excited to start with my role as a listener and I don’t exactly remember which topic it was, along with the person I was helping were fairly satisfied with the conversation and that began my journey with 7 cups.
I did feel though the concept of listening to people only via chat is somewhat a limited thing as it does not allow people to fully connect, I decided that not all people (sometimes myself included can communicate as well via talking to a stranger than via text)
During my time there, I did find a wide array of people mostly students during that time. 7 cups are featured in such a way there is 2 age group, one is below 18 and the other is above 18, so basically I was talking to all people below the age of 18, and I found it comfortable and nice talking to them.
As soon as I reached 18, I got into the elder group, so from listening to almost all people who were younger than me, I went to listen to people who were almost older than me, then also for quite some time I did find nice people there as most people there just wanted to talk to someone and most people I connected were not older than 23, basically college students. Of course, as in any social website, there were “toxic people” of both genders but there is an option to block and report them and was not that big of a problem.
The downfall: Uninstalling 7 cups
All my initial assumption of the website was really good after a few months and spending a bit more time I did find that although there were some nice people, the quality of “some other listeners” along with the increasing number of “toxic members” joining the site, along with my examinations starting, I decided to take a break from the site.
After my exams I started thinking of the site, the problem with the site was not about the idea, I did and still think that it is a wonderful idea, but it is the kind of people who joined the site and about how easy it is for people to become listeners.
First of all, it is important to understand a genuine person who wants help, what kind of state they are in. The person is in a vulnerable state, the person might have experienced something which has made him feel like he/she cannot trust anyone and if it so happens that the person finds a wrong type of listener it would just take one single comment (could be malicious or misjudged) to make them feel much worse. Now even if there is an option to report and block people, the damage is already done. The same goes for listeners too, it could happen a listener who is there is in some vulnerable state too, so for a site that self-describes itself as “World’s Largest Emotional Support System,” it could be quite dangerous for both sides of the people too.
Rejoining 7 cups
During the covid-19 lockdown cutting me off from my college life, with most of the classes going online, and with me securing my internship with a possibility of PPO, I decided to go back to 7 cups to see how far it has come along, I decided myself that I shall only take Personal Requests as I felt the quality of people would be better.
I was not disappointed… The quality of both the members and listeners had improved significantly, when I was in I would say 8-month break during which time I hardly used it. The community room of listeners felt a lot better, with people genuinely helping each other, communicating and all. The members which had sent me personal requests were great, with most members understanding if I did not want to talk about a particular problem and such. Yes, there were a few rare where it was not so, but overall I was quite happy with it.
Right now 7 cups are in a place where it is hard to define whether you would have a good experience or not, as a member you are limited to getting help by someone in a chat service with listeners who may or may not have the emotional/logical intelligence to communicate and understand your problem fully. Yes, you can try to find a listener who would have experience with the problem you are facing, but who knows how the chat shall proceed.
For listeners except for people who really like to help there is no other motivation except for a gamified online free-for-all chat service to help others, and if they have a negative experience with a person it might further discourage them to continue with the help.
I don’t doubt that 7 Cups can be a valuable layer of support for some people, but there have always been some people who have tried to ruin the experience of a place, and 7 cups is a place where its users are vulnerable, also a place where there is hardly any oversight and vetting process it can it do more good than harm?
Maybe it can, 7 cups sure have gotten loads better since I have first started using it. It would be an interesting thing to see what happens in the future!!
My 7 cups profile:- https://www.7cups.com/@leovaldez19