Most people would not dream of confessing their crushes in a Facebook status or tweeting about their latest sexual escapades, but they are more than happy to whisper about them. The Whisper iPhone app allows students to anonymously confess what’s really been on their minds.
“We developed Whisper as a reaction to the current social networking options,” Michael Heyward, one of the app’s developers, said. “Platforms like Facebook and Twitter are great, but they aren’t necessarily always authentic. People use social networking to show others a perfect version of themselves. We wanted to develop a platform that allowed people to communicate in a uniquely authentic manner and be who they really are.”
In addition to posting secrets anonymously, users can also “ME2!” others’ posts, which is akin to “liking” on Facebook, and reply with whispers of their own. Whispers can be tagged with a location and organized by how close they were whispered to you.
Whisper has found popularity on large college campuses throughout the country, such as Pennsylvania State University, Arizona State University and University of Florida. Whisper is not the first confessional social media platform created for college students. The Confessionals are forums created for students at colleges such as Oberlin College, Mount Holyoke College and Amherst College. These forums were created as places to speak honestly and seek advice while remaining anonymous.
Anonymity is key while using Whisper. Users can change the name they post their whispers under as many times as they please and even copy other whisperers’ user names. The staff monitoring the Whisper feed deletes any posts that contain personal information such as full names, phone numbers or email addresses, Khushboo Parmar, a UT Whisper representative, said.
“We try to moderate as far as privacy goes,” Parmar said. “When we see something that has someone’s personal information, we try to get that gone ASAP.”
The anonymity of the app allows users to confess their deepest secrets, hopes, dreams and failures without having to identify themselves. Confessing these thoughts through Whisper provides relief and a sense of comfort without exposing users to judgment by their peers, Parmar said.
“It’s to let them know that they’re not alone,” Parmar said. “To know that just because you’re struggling, and it seems like everyone else is doing so great, that there’s someone around you that’s feeling just the way you’re feeling.”
While the app is intended to be a candid confessional for students, the feed is sometimes flooded with mild statements similar to Facebook status updates — think something along the lines of “I’m so happy to be a Longhorn!” on a picture of the UT tower glowing orange.
Whisperers often question the authenticity of some of the posts and worry that the app is being used as tepid social media rather than an unabashed, juicy confessional. When asked via Whisper what whisperers thought of the app, one user said they “Don’t know if what I’m reading is a truth or a lie.”
Another user found the app to be “annoying yet addictive.” But amidst these concerns there are still users that find the app to be an outlet to express true inner feelings. A whisperer stated that, thanks to the app, “I think there’s a lot of horny, lonely, confused, depressed, angry, and did I mention horny people out there.”
The use of an app like Whisper during college provides students with a new way to learn about themselves, Heyward said.
“Very often the way we form opinions about ourselves is based on how we view ourselves in comparison to our peers,” Heyward said. “We are now living in a time where people don’t form opinions about their peers through physical interaction but through curated profiles on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. People only put good things on those platforms, so everyone thinks everyone else’s lives are perfect.”
Whether Whisper is being used as a place to seek support for an unrequited love or confess that, yes, you really do urinate in the shower, the app may be helping students feel a greater connection to their peers. One whisperer summed this feeling up simply: “It makes me feel like maybe I’m not as different from everyone around me as I think.”
Printed on Monday, Nov. 26, 2012 as: iPhone users whisper secrets with new app