Whisper of the Faceless - The New Indian Express

Whisper of the Faceless

Published: 23rd March 2014 06:00 AM

Last Updated: 21st March 2014 10:19 PM

If you are not a twenty-something, then you won’t understand the social stigma that is attached with not having a profile on Facebook. When I tell people that I don’t have a profile on the social networking website they give me a look which they usually reserve for rabid stray dogs.

The next question inevitably is why? As if I am a desperate soul that needs rescuing and delivering into the bosom of the Zuckerberg. Since I can’t tell them that I am an anti-social introvert who would rather live in the wilds of Siberia than meet a real person, I usually mumble something and get away. But one of the reasons why I abhor Facebook is the lack of authenticity it manifests in people. If you go by his Facebook profile, my lazy neighbour who spends 20 hours a day on a couch in front of the TV has an adventurous outdoorsy lifestyle. This inauthenticity often gives rise to unrealistic expectations in other users. Particularly those in younger age groups. Combined with peer pressure, this forms a vicious cycle which ruins lives. It could be something as mundane as pretending to like a really bad film because everyone in your network seems to like it to something as horrible as voting in the fascists because all your peers are doing it.

Despite having hundreds and in some extreme cases thousands of ‘friends’ in their social networks, people are finding it harder and harder to say and share what they genuinely feel. This is giving rise to a new crop of mobile social networks. Unlike the Facebooks and Google Pluses of this world which are adamant about their users using their real identities, these new crop of mobile applications all have one major theme in common. Anonymity.

Anonymous Social Network sounds like an oxymoron. Michael Heyward, the CEO of Whisper, one such mobile app, does not think so. “I don’t want to live in a world where you feel like you can’t be yourself,” he says talking to technology website CNET. This, the freedom to express what you feel like without fear or shame, is one of the main selling points of these applications. While apps like Whisper and Banter allow for you to express your internal feelings, there are apps like Secret on the other side of the coin which allow you not only to express your feeling but also post secrets. Literally gossip about people and companies around you.

The makers of these apps and their venture capitalist backers say that their apps are helping youngsters with fighting cyber-bullying and overcoming depression by letting them share their experiences and fears without fearing social stigma. But not everyone is buying that argument. Some psychologists and sociologists fear the consequences of sharing your innermost feelings for likes. Also, since the apps give you a platform to say anything without a sense of consequence they fear this will only lead to more bullying and rumour-mongering which can sometimes prove very devastating. They fear this will give rise to a whole new generation of people who have no concept of cause and effect.

Even as more and more youngsters are being attracted to these apps, parents and school administrations are finding it hard to come to terms with the technology that easily lets them say anything they want and get bullied with ease. The app makers though are confident that through careful moderation they will be able to stop issues like abuse and bullying and that the apps will help people express themselves more freely.

Matham is a tech geek. Follow him on Twitter @AdarshMatham

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