Several apps have recently gained heavy traction and have built a community based on the principle of being able to freely express yourself candidly and honestly, all while keeping your identity anonymous. Apps like FireChat, Secret, and Whisper all allow users to use their platforms and provide an environment where introverts can feel free to become more social, where a seemingly quiet person can reveal their true personalities, and where anyone can publish their innermost feelings without a big fear of revealing their true identity. Some provide a messaging layer so likeminded people can connect with each other. Considering you can post behind a pseudonym, this new wave of apps takes on the ambiguous community personality of sites like Reddit and Hacker News.
Some think this can be bad morally, and some believe these services can thrive for good because they provide an outlet and community that has a fundamentally different thesis than the traditional communication services we all use like Twitter and Facebook. It all boils down to the quality of content. Reducing the amount of posts related to solicitation, slander, vulgar hate, and general spam, will reveal truly expressive and emotional insights from those all around us. And it’s happening. Secret has published a set of guidelines they hope the community can follow and, like neighborhood patrol, moderate the posts. Secret itself delivers posts based on popularity and degree of connection to you (friends, friends of friends) so not everyone will see the same content. Apps like Whisper and FireChat don’t, but the user can filter content by all/everyone, or by those near you geographically. When browsing Popular posts on Whisper, I could instantly tell a difference in tone versus posts in Latest and Nearby, and that’s due in part because of the community upvoting more worthy content. FireChat itself can be an extremely useful platform, using some innovative technology to back up message delivery. On your first visit, you get dumped into an “Everyone” chatroom, and messages about sex and solicitation begin flying in. Toggling to the “Nearby” room revealed that I was the only one around my area using the service at the time. Understandably, it’s still a young service, but the impact it could have for certain use cases where getting a data connection can be difficult, like concerts and natural disasters can prove to be significant.
It’ll be interesting to see how these services mature and whether or not they can provide an outlet that fosters and embraces an anonymous community without the unwanted noise. To me, it seems that they’re all still experimenting and are on a path to hopefully encourage more supportive, meaningful, and therapeutic conversation.