Can Anonymous Apps Survive Without Bullying And Trash Talk?

As social media users shy away from public feeds, and worry about their privacy. More and more so-called “anonymous” apps are being launched, adding to the already brimming market.

Among the most famous is Secret, an app that allows you to share your thoughts and feelings with friends and strangers in the form of a meme. However, as with all anonymous apps, it has a dark side. A dark side so dark that it led Secret CEO, David Byttow to shutdown the app, claiming that the app no longer represented his “vision”, which is probably the vision we all had in the beginning.

The vision

After all the online social media leaks of 2014, consumers were crying out for anonymity. We didn’t know what to do, or who to trust. We were sick of being spied on, and had lost faith in the likes of Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat.

Then came “anonymous social networking” – or apps that allowed users to post publicly to networks without using their real names. Developers thought this was the answer to our prayers, and so did we.  It made sense for this to happen, especially when users realized that social networking on more public networks could be tracked by the government.

We all thought that perhaps having anonymous social would encourage the same sort of connection that Facebook once offered, before the targeted marketing and data sharing. An anonymous platform where you didn’t have to disclose your identity to the whole world, or have the drawback of being worried about what you post. And that was a nice thought.

The reality

Unfortunately, the reality was a bit different. Instead, what anonymous social networking reminded us of is the fact that when people no longer have to stand behind their words, they’re pretty loose with their morals, and can say some pretty terrible things.

Yikyak, another anonymous messaging service that combines location based networking, was banned from some school grounds in the US due to cyber bullying. The app also became home to bomb and shooting threats, and was held partly responsible for certain suicides. But YikYak and Secret aren’t the only anonymous apps to harbour this kind of behaviour – it’s happening across the board.

Sadly, behind closed doors people do want to read about gossip, shameful secrets and other things that people think, even if they won’t admit it publicly. So even though these companies have tried to curb the bad behaviour, by implementing rules and banning the apps from schools, it simply doesn’t work. If users can’t do what they like on the app, they’ll find another one, until that app has to bring in measures too…and the process repeats.

The decline of Secret

It’s clear that Secret’s decline is due to them clamping down on unacceptable activity such as those discussed. The app started to forbid users to post names, and stopped them from uploading pictures from their phones, so they went elsewhere – to apps such as Whisper, Cloaq and mood.

It’s a vicious cycle that is likely to continue. Allow people to misbehave and the app thrives, clean it up and protect your users, and the app fails. It’s clear to see why the app no longer represents David Byttows vision, because the whole idea no longer represents ours too. The only way anonymous apps can truly survive and compete with other messaging apps is if they let their users do whatever they like, and in that case one has to question their morals and legitimacy.