The new rise in anonymous apps is receiving mixed reviews from individuals who believe that the majority of people want to be identified and have their personal commentary linked directly to their social media activity. It is no surprise that some people utilize the internet heavily for this benefit. Beyond being a marketing tool for products and sales, the internet has become an avenue for promoting an online persona, a best “you” that can be put on an interface and be seen instantly, simultaneously, anywhere. Whether it be Twitter, Facebook, or a friend’s blog, when one’s name is attached to the commentary, it is an association that cannot be undone. For some, this brings a sense of security and belonging, but for others it can be disarming to be so terminally attached to what they want to share. Anonymous apps, such as Secret, in certain circles, are highly admired for the opportunity they create to be vulnerable.
In the first days of the internet, one’s identity was a pen name made up of the zip code where you were born and the name of your first pet, and it wasn’t attached to anything. A cyber identity could be simply how one ranked in an online chess tournament. Even if a user was liked or un-liked in a chatroom, their personal identity was free from profile-based commentary: Well, of course he thinks chili should be made with spaghetti, he’s from Cincinnati! He probably puts spaghetti on his pizza! Or whatever other derisive comments can circulate according to the accessibility of personal online information.
Within the last decade, anonymity has faded, catering to a social, public life dominated by a profile that characterizes one’s best self, including all the significant historical data. You want to know how so-and-so knows so-and-so, read their histories, discover they went to the same university, both worked at the same ice cream shop, and love Sublime. Without ever meeting these faces in real life, assumptions and judgments are made about their relationship history. A conversation is never needed. They are obviously linked. Each online profile can lead us to draw many conclusions without ever interacting. Perhaps her saying she likes Sublime was completely sarcastic, which anyone who knew her would find hilarious. She did go to St. Cloud University, but ten years before the other guy, and the ice cream shop she worked at while in high school was in a neighboring state. The reason they are Facebook friends is because she bought a car from him, and he lost his phone, so Facebook messaging was the only way she could get a hold of him.
Because of the availability of information, we get to know people differently, or how we think we are getting to know them has changed. Because of this shift in how we relate, it may be possible that people put less of their inner selves out there. (Golly, if she only knew that people were taking her seriously when she listed Sublime as her favorite music, she would have thought twice about joking around. Or, if he knew that people were going to judge him so harshly for liking Sublime, maybe he would have preferred to post the guilty pleasure on an anonymous platform.) Even though it may seem it is easier to be known because of the advent of social media, the stuff that individualizes one from another, that differentiates one person from another, seems to be the stuff that people do not want to attach their name to. Secret provides an opportunity for people to remain anonymous but connect on a deeper, more vulnerable level, to enjoy Sublime without hearing the snickering and feeling embarrassed despite the self-directed pep talk.
Users of the app also have the opportunity to comment on posts, which some may like more than actually posting their own “secret.” One user stated the app frees her up to speak freely to those who are using the exchange to ask for relationship advice, or substance abuse, for example. People who are going through a difficult time can reach out to others and let go of the comment more holistically, because without legs, the comment cannot be re-attached to the user, and the user does not have to face the burden of having bared their soul. There’s less of an obligation to the validity of the comment, which can be a good thing. Sometimes minds are changed; sometimes feelings go away. Sometimes it feels good not to be responsible for every bad thing one can feel or say. Sometimes saying something “out loud” changes the feeling on the inside. It’s like playing a healthy prank on the conscience.
Secret has gained most of its popularity with users who work in the Silicon valley and its satellite companies. One avenue the forum is used for is as a sounding board and support group for disgruntled employees with frustrations regarding company founders and other affiliates. Sometimes, being able to vent, is a necessary exercise, but it is not necessary to be attached to the emotional flurry. Not in all cases should one have to be what they write.
“The ease of honesty that anonymity gives you is really cool,” says one Secret user. She testified that such a level of honesty would not be seen in other social media posts.
Secret, launched two months ago, is just one of the anonymous apps that have been circulating within the last year or so. There is also Rumr, Confide, Yik Yak, and Whisper. Each app has its own persuasions and particulars, but all are aimed at providing an anonymous platform from which to confess, decry, blame, whine, or share something you don’t want anyone to know about you. To ensure security, Secret encrypts posts and does not upload information to servers. Also, users have the ability to “unlink my posts,” which will disengage the user from all previously posted secrets. Anonymous apps may revolutionize secret telling, and vulnerability, more so than popularity, may become social media’s newly, most admired trait.
Opinion by Stacy Feder