When Social Media Goes too Far

Oct 10, 2015 | Social

We all know the importance of social media. It connects users all over the world, some old friends, some new. It promotes new ideas, cycles out news, and even directs revolutions. But for every good idea, there is a dark side. Social media is also a haven for harassment, sexism, racism, and ignorance. And while Julia Condray, the founder of the app Peeple, may truly believe that her app is going to be “the World’s Largest Positivity app”, but the app’s premise is so unbelievably stupid that the results will be completely counter-intuitive of her mission.

If you haven’t heard yet, Peeple is an app with the premise that it is the “Yelp for people”. You read that right. “Yelp for people”. In theory, the ranking is supposed to highlight yourself as a great professional and well-rounded person for networking purposes. However, as we know with sites like Yelp, a stranger’s kneejerk reaction isn’t to accentuate the positives, but to highlight the negatives. So if you ever see one of those Yelp reviews when a user gives a restaurant a 1-star review for giving water with lemon instead of regular ice water, just remember, that could happen to you. It’s Facebook with a dislike button. It’s Twitter with a “Bury” button. It’s Reddit with personal profiles.

There are two real problems with this. Best-case scenario, the app’s ranking system falls in line with Uber’s ranking system. Because Uber drivers can rank customers (which can affect the rate at which they are picked up), unless the driver is particularly unqualified, there is no incentive to rank the driver less than 5-stars. What ends up being created is a culture of stagnation between a business and a customer. What would end up happening is that users would rank each other 5-stars with the fear that other users will rank them lower. So essentially, the app would lose meaning, because only the truly awful people would get low ratings, which could probably be determined in a simple job interview.

The worst-case scenario, of course, is another platform for people to be harassed online. As we’ve seen with other social media sites and apps, we’ve seen people take these social networks that were meant for socializing and turned them rotten with harassers, solicitors, racists, sexists, and trolls. An app that allows a person’s worth to be categorized with a 1-star could be the fuel for more cyberbullying and internet dogpiling, which has proven time and time again that it eats away at a person’s mental well-being. Julia Condray has learned this first-hand. The founder of Peeple posted an essay last Sunday on her LinkedIn page that she has been receiving multiple hurtful comments and even death threats since her announcement of her app. And yet, she believes an app that rates people is not only a good idea, but a “courageous” one. Well, the terms “courageous” and “stupidity” aren’t mutually exclusive.