Over the past several days, more and more backlash has been surfacing regarding the hoopla around the impending launch of the app Peeple. It’s pretty rare that I become publicly riled up about something, and I’ve found that often is due to my lack of control of the situation. I will sign petitions, donate money, whatever is appropriate for the cause- but it’s rare that I take to social media to join a cause. In this case, however, I have a place in the debate. The main goal of maintaining this blog over the past five years has been to elevate the viewpoint of negative situations. Suddenly, an app with a great deal of financial backing is on the horizon- and it essentially stands for the opposite of my goals on social media. As much as the founders would like to believe otherwise*(see note below), I believe this App will only promote an outlet for under-regulated personal attacks and the general approval of emotionally-driven judgments about people in our lives. In other words, I am not a fan.
The Power of Social Media
Though social media constantly gets a bad rap, I give it a great deal of credit for its ability to gather communities. Just look at the unbelievable movements created by Humans of New York, The Ice Bucket Challenge, and countless other crowd-funding campaigns that have launched companies, built web series, and even saved lives—all of which are forces that have rallied communities together for a greater cause.
Now, I do also understand the debate against the rise in social media dependency. We are given a digital wall to hide behind, a place to cower when we feel the need to spout diatribes about social and political topics, of which, quite often, we are not fully informed. And yet, even these promote the process of discovering one’s beliefs and protesting tactics.
Peeple, however, the upcoming app that allows you to “rate” your peers, provides none of these qualities. Here are three reasons the existing social media platforms have succeeded in a supportive culture:
- Peeple lacks emotional connection: Hitting “Like” on Facebook can mean many things: I support you, I believe in you, or even, Yes, your brunch really does look delicious. Thought it can be abused, across the board, Facebook is often a place to celebrate yourself or others. Peeple, however, removes the human connection. Instead of seeing one another for our careers, our hobbies, and our life events, we are encouraged to see each other as a tangible score, a confusing subjective opinion– without any humanizing details to back it up. The culture on Facebook has been set- I would never imagine writing a personal attack on someone’s wall. And if I did, it could be deleted by its owner, or defended by a peer.
- Facebook/Twitter inspires debate: Though I have chosen, for my own mental health, to unfollow several friends on Facebook who often rant about politics, I give them credit for starting the conversation. Even when things get out of control, these debates will often ignite the pursuit of the greater knowledge. If things become personal, as mentioned earlier, the user has the option opt out or delete the conversation. Others also have the ability to come to your defense. What is perhaps most frightening about Peeple is the inability to opt out the service. The CEO has stepped forward to say that the opt-out situation has changed, though I am still very unclear about whether someone can write the post about you in the first place. If you have a clear explanation of this, please feel free to comment.
- It promotes lack of accountability: I work in a middle school. I can only imagine the terror this would create, not only for children, but also for people of all ages who find themselves in situations when someone’s emotions have gotten the best of them. In a society that promotes living up to a particular, pop-culture-approved standard, millions of people who suffer from even the slightest social anxiety would now have a “number” to connect to that fear. This is wrong.
And a step beyond that? We are adults, and therefore have experiences overcoming cruelty and negativity. But for children and teenagers? What does this tell them? That yes, there is standard created by your peers, and if you do not abide by these rules, you will be publicly shamed. And to the people doing that shaming? Here is place for you to release your judgments out into the world without remembering how someone else will be affected. Realizing the way our words can upset or encourage another human being is one of the most crucial stages in personal growth — without this imperative step, our society grows even further apart.
Using what we have
So what can we do? Let’s use the tools provided by our current, functional social media platforms to lift everyone up. We are not numbers, we are not ratings, we are not Yelp reviews. We are human beings trying desperately to connect to one another and feel that we have a place in our day-to-day lives. We are trying, and we do not, be any means, need this effort to be diminished to a meaningless number.
#Boycottpeeple and other similar movements are currently gaining momentum on Twitter and Facebook. Let’s continue to support one another.
*Final note about the CEO’s recent post: If the message from Julia Cordray is genuine, which I would like to believe it is, I hope she begins to understand the reality of the program she is building, and where our frustration is coming from. I never condone threats or attacks on a person- no one should be doing this to the owners of the company or anyone connected. If their intentions are to create a platform for positivity, then I applaud their hopes, but remind them that they may be, unfortunately, a bit disconnected. And, yes, it is a shame that people will use this app to write negative posts about one another, but it is simply a truth that cannot be ignored. It is our responsibility to protect the young people of our society (and one another) from those who will abuse an app of this kind.