FFS, Internet!

I write these little letters to the Internet, albeit they are few and far-between, mostly as humour. Unfortunately, I’m not in a very humorous mood regarding the Internet lately. Maybe it’s my age. Maybe it’s how long I’ve haunted the hallow halls of social media. I don’t really believe that people are any more or less judgemental now than they ever were before. What I do know is that now it’s all out there for everyone to see. Worse, because of social media, it involves participation.

What if every error in judgement you ever made was called in to question, publicly? What if it was more than just your parents’ disappointment you had to field? Parents, loved-ones and most real friends are very forgiving. Strangers on the Internet? Not so much.

Let me start by saying I have not tried Peeple. The reason I haven’t given it the benefit of the doubt and tried before forming an opinion is because it is DANGEROUS. The very moment I login via my Facebook login (my Facebook profile is largely private) and confirm with my mobile number (also kept mostly private), I have opened myself up to ‘reviews’.

‘But Trasie, if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to worry about.’

Everybody has something to hide. Everybody SHOULD. I know things about people that they wouldn’t want public. People have done things to me that I may still be angry about. Is it right to humiliate them publicly? Absolutely not.

And that’s just the thing. I’ve often said to people, ‘don’t put anything on social media you wouldn’t want your mother to read’. I say this because regardless of privacy settings on any social media property, you run the risk of it leaking. That’s just how it is. These are social networks. They are, by nature and title, SOCIAL. Don’t use them if you don’t want to be social.

But let’s face it, you have a modicum of control over your own profiles on social media. It is up to you what you post and when you post it. The risk is yours to take.

So, no, I haven’t tried Peeple. The content that would be created about me would not be created BY me. Worse, I would have no control over it. It’s easy to tell a business on Yelp that you will get good reviews, you will get bad reviews and that, unless you’ve been entirely unreasonable, the bad reviews will only serve to reinforce the good reviews by making you appear more realistic. After all, no business is liked by everyone.

But that’s business. That’s not how you behaved at a party or how you perform in bed. You aren’t likely to post on Facebook that you gave someone five orgasms. Why would you let someone else post it for you somewhere? Why would you let them post anything personal about you?

They can’t review you in Peeple if you don’t create a profile. That’s the good news. And if you do, and they DO, you can hide those reviews and, I’m given to understand, possibly delete them – though you all must be aware by now that the Internet holds no secrets. What was once out there probably always will be. The problem is that once the new feature, ‘Truth License’, kicks in, all anybody has to do is pay $1/month to see ALL reviews – even the negative ones.

What is $1/month, really? It’s 1/5 of a Starbuck’s coffee, 1/2 of a student’s TTC ticket (and high school students are going to lap this app up – you think online bullying is bad now?), a simple speck that is hardly noticeable by a company considering hiring you. $1 is NOTHING. And you can’t stop it from happening, if the reports are true.

It’s one thing that we’ve all become terribly judgemental and taken to an awful lot of name-calling and bullying online. It’s another thing entirely that there are tools well beyond our control that aid in that.

It is better to be safe than sorry. If you download it, you can’t preview it until you login. Once you login, you have lost all control. If you have secrets, and of course you do (YOU SHOULD), this is not what you want to have happen to you. Just don’t.

Finally, maybe there’s half a chance we can stop this. I’ve signed a petition at change.org. I don’t know if it will help, but it certainly can’t hurt. You can also NOT download the app. You can also share with your friends and family and make sure they stay safe.

**UPDATE – MARCH 8, 2016**

The TOS for Peeple states you must be 21 to download the app and have a Facebook account and mobile phone to join. I am not confident this is enough. There are many, many Facebook users who are lying about their age, particularly kids. It’s very easy to do this. It’s also not hard to misstate your age on your Apple account and, though I don’t have an Android, I image it’s not hard to lie about your age in Google Play.

To assume that being 21 makes a person responsible is also a stretch. I also don’t see how it will be effectively policed. We know that things only need to be posted for a moment for someone to grab it and spread it around. Once the ‘Truth License’ is in place, what is the process for having abusive comments removed? It will, no doubt, take longer to deal with than it takes for someone to post it on Reddit or anywhere else.

The Privacy Policy attempts to alleviate these fears, but it’s really not feasible, once you join, to remain completely in control.