On the Internet, it's easy to create a new pseudonym or personality. But what happens if you remove the concept of a user profile all together?
That's what Whisper, an anonymous mobile social network for Android and iOS does. By removing the user's identity, Whisper helps people share secrets they wouldn't be comfortable sharing with anyone else in the world under normal circumstances. Users anonymously share "whispers," which are stylized cards that share deep secrets formatted on images. While you can like and comment on whispers, there are no profiles. This means, in theory, no one but you can track your activity.
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"On all of these different social neworking platforms, the core motivation is around ego and vanity," Whisper CEO Michael Heyward told Mashable. "Let me show off the best version of me on vacation, with liquor, at a sports game. There's a major impact that this type of social sharing is having on people because it can give an unrealistic perception of what's happening in your peer group."
This can be especially rough on teenagers. Less than 10 years ago, if you weren't invited to a party you might hear about it in the hallways at school. Today, there's a real-time broadcast of parties on Instagram and Facebook.
"We're living in a time when people learn about their friends based only upon what you want them to see," Heyward says. "We wanted to create this place where people can share things about themselves from a different lens.
Whisper's the place you can be the captain of the football team, but also really like Glee."
Heyward points to the concept of peer estimation assuming everyone else is constantly being invited to parties while you are always doing the inviting to explain why Facebook has been known to cause depression. Most people, he says, overestimate the positive events going on in their friends lives in comparison to their own life events.
Timeline-based profiles lend to people carefully curating their self-images. Because Whisper doesn't have profiles, individuals can share embarassing feelings as well as deep secrets.
"People share things they could never share on an identity-based network, such as 'I wish I was straight so my parents would love me,'" Heyward says. "Every day we see posts that say, 'Whisper saved my life'."
This mission is embroiled in the social network's core. Whisper has a zero-tolerance policy toward bullying. And this supportive model works. The team regularly hears from users that the network's community has helped them stop self-harming behaviors.
Heyward notes that Whisper's users aren't all "emo kids." Some are soldiers in Afghanistan, who might not have proper resources to get the emotional support they need during or following combat tours.
Whisper has 4 million devoted users the average user opens the app eight times each day. In its two year history, the app has received 2.8 billion pageviews. Each day, hundreds of thousands of whispers are uploaded each day, which are filtered by a team of 70 full-time moderators located in Manila.
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Image: Mashable composite: iStock, VasjaKoman