How Safe is a Whisper?

Have something that you need to get off your chest? The app Whisper hopes that you do—in fact, its utility depends on it.  The user types out a short secret, which the app then matches with a picture based on keywords. The user can then edit the font and mix and match pictures before the final posting onto the app homepage.  When you’re done crafting the perfect collage, the secret is posted anonymously under a pseudo name that you have created. On the home screen, other users can look at whispers that people have designed and ‘heart’ one if they identify with a particular secret, similar to “Likes” and “Favorites” on Facebook and Twitter. The app provides the user with a notification if their whisper has been ‘hearted.’

The app is similar to the website PostSecret with which many college students are familiar. On the popular blog, anonymous postcards are showcased each week with secrets that most would never feel comfortable saying in-person.

Whisper has become especially popular among Fraternity members. The app becomes an outlet to release frustrations they have about ‘frat-boy culture.’ Most of the confessions among fraternity members center on the theme of misogyny and the front of coolness that they are forced to put up. Here are a few examples:

Brobible.com

Photo courtesy of Brobible.com

Brobible.com

Photo courtesy of Brobible.com

Brobible.com

Photo courtesy of Brobible.com

The app provides a non-judgmental safe space for people to share their thoughts, similar to the BC Confessions page that was popular on Facebook a few months ago. Unlike the Facebook page, however, there is no comments section on Whisper. Thus, there is less fear of backlash against what one has to say. Despite this, some believe that there could be negative consequences to using the app.

“Problems do not get fixed when they are posted anonymously online," said Danielle, class of 2017. "Problems only get fixed when people speak up and start to change them.”

Rob, class of 2016, said, “It seems like the app could be potentially dangerous. People could send hate messages through the app or just lie to get attention.”

The potential for lying to garner attention certainly resonates with the BC population, as one Boston College student made a distasteful joke about raping three women on the BC Confessions page at the beginning of the fall semester. The fake confession did start a conversation about rape culture at Boston College, but it also made many students uncomfortable and led to the expulsion of the perpetrator.

With the rise of secret-sharing apps and Twitter accounts like “College Confessions", one begins to wonder if there might be some larger issue propelling students to announce their innermost secrets behind the security of a computer screen. The important questions might have to do with Danielle’s concern. Why are we so disconnected? Why don’t we feel comfortable enough sharing secrets with our friends?

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