Anonymity, the internet and social media platforms when meshed together can be extremely dangerous. New social media apps Like Secret or Shrtwv are on the Rise. The idea that a person cannot be held accountable for their actions or their words is not a good one. Don’t take that to mean the concept of anonymity is to blame, because it is, in fact, just a conduit. The real problem lies with people. Rest assured however that where there is anonymity there will always be a darker environment.
Take the app Secret for example, which recently became a sensation in Silicon Valley. Once installed on your device, you must enter an email address and phone number and create a password. The app then scans the contacts on your device to determine who else in your inner circle has signed up for the social platform. Once you’re all signed up, you share your content – it can be anything, even inappropriate material – and your updates will be posted to a unique feed filled with content from strangers. There are no profile photos and no bylines, in fact there’s really no definite way to tell who posted what unless of course you know the person well and can recognize them from a photo.
Secret founder, David Byttow says the app is like “Snapchat for text, except anonymous.”
A very similar app was recently pulled from the Apple App store. PostSecret was discontinued just three months after it entered the market. Why? It was pulled because of abusive content from users, which included pornographic, downright gruesome and life-threatening material. App founder Frank Warren wrote about the problem in a blog post.
“I was contacted by law enforcement about bad content on the App. Threats were made against users, moderators and my family. As much as we tried, we were unable to maintain a bully-free environment. Weeks ago I had to remove the App from my daughter’s phone.”
As The Verge writes, “anonymity is a double-edged sword. It brings out the best in people, […] but it can also bring out the worst, as it has in a number of social-networking apps that users have turned into weapons for cyberbullying.”
Ever since the success of Snapchat, anonymous-style apps have been on the rise. Whisper is one such app that encourages users to share their secrets. Users post whatever is on their mind, and the community can interact with said post. It’s like any other social network, except that the content remains anonymous. The allure is that you can reveal your deepest secrets, and discuss them with others yet remain unidentified.
It’s a great idea, in theory. Eventually, the anonymity will allow people to become mean and hateful towards others – it always does.
Cue in the latest app from Silicon Valley, called Shortwave or Shrtwv. Users share their feelings anonymously with a community in posts called “waves,” which are geo-tagged and added to a social feed in real-time. Putting it in business terms, if someone is raving about the construction equipment they ordered from your company, but you’re not near the person posting the wave and you’re not browsing the feed at that particular time you will never see the content.
Because the content is linked to a geo-tag, abuse and spam are out of the question – at least for now. When the network sees a growth in its user base however, that might be a different story entirely. Muneeb Bohkari of Digiplastic Industries, the company that developed Shrtwv, believes that is not the case.
Bohkari says that posting mean things on Shrtwv, would be “the equivalent of me writing something completely offensive on my front door.” The idea is that only those around you will be able to see the content. Of course, that won’t stop bullies or abusers indefinitely.
Bohkari says that right now Shrtwv is being used by people primarily for uploading “pictures of pets up for adoption, writing about the crushes they have on their classmates, and, generally, sharing moments of beauty that they see in the world around them.”
The good news is that Shrtwv and Secret are both relatively new. If you have the opportunity it wouldn’t hurt to try the apps out. With any luck both platforms will continue to offer exactly what the developers intended – a private yet safe place for users to share their thoughts and feelings.