What’s Up With Whisper?

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Fernando Yzquierdo and Desiree Pico

Facebook. Twitter. LinkedIn. Instagram. Tumblr. Five of the top ten largest social media platforms mentioned without as much as a second glance. In this day and age, social media has become one of the most omnipresent entities in the world of technology, and in our lives—especially in the lives of the adolescent generation. Snapchat, Reddit, and Vine are just a few more that are quickly ranking up in popularity since the outburst of technology in the later half of 2012. Now, even four years later, a new platform is emerging. Whisper.

If you haven’t heard of Whisper, you probably will soon. Having emerged relatively recently in comparison to other social media platforms—Whisper has only been around for less than a month (starting February 5th and 11th for iOS and Android respectively)—the app is rising in popularity. Similar to most social media platforms, Whisper allows you to upload a picture with a piece of text into the web, granting users the ability to see, ‘heart’, and reply to other users’ pictures that they can also see. Where Whisper differs from many popular platforms is in identity; as many of users of Instagram, Facebook, etc. know, when you create a profile for yourself, the app asks for a set username, email, etc. Whisper doesn’t. Instead, the app randomly generates a username, without tagging the user to an email or other form of social media. This innovative technique, as of late, has yet to be noted, however with rising popularity comes rising concern.

The app itself has a multitude of “boards”. Some examples include “Confessions,” “Humor,” and “Romance.” The list goes on. Users can choose to upload their pictures to the general population of Whisper, or to increase their specificity and direction by tagging their text to a board. In addition, Whisper also accesses your location and generates a separate board for you. Say, a worker in an office has a job in downtown Miami. Whisper would tag him or her to the Miami Tower, or to the SunTrust Building. If a student downloads the app, Whisper will confirm their location at a specific school, such as TERRA Environmental Research Institute. At first glance, this can be seen as an easy and facile way for users to direct a certain quote or picture towards a group of people, but upon further analysis, a dark side is revealed.

After having been tagged to a place, such as TERRA, a user will get notifications from all the users posting onto that board. Therefore, teenagers and adolescents especially have been using the app for spreading rumors, gossip and fallacies unknowingly. Just to note, the page is not actually created by TERRA, or any other organizations: Whisper simply generates a page for every new user based on location. Because Whisper creates a random username, teenagers feel it safe to post incriminating material without feeling the repercussions, or the consequences. With such a reckless way of being able to post online, the app has a larger-than-life potential to lead to bullying.

Mrs. Melissa Fernandez and Ms. Surey Rios, teachers of the Biomedical and Environmental academies respectively, were asked how they felt about the topic of this new social media: “I think that social media wastes a lot of time, and I think that there are enough issues with social media already,” said Fernandez. “I think that if someone has something to say, they should say it up front and in person instead of hiding because then it leads to more bullying and it leads to more issues. I don’t think it’s the best thing.”

“This is the newest way for cyberbullying. I think it’s terrible. I get this whole thing of self-expression, and people expressing themselves, but there’s a loss of class.” Mrs. Rios stated. “If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything. Instead of building people up in the human endeavor, we tear them down…it hurts for people even my age to be ‘whispered’ about.”

Another feature included in Whisper is the aforementioned “Confessions” board. Under this board is a smaller, growing LGBTQ community. Many teenagers have started confessing their sexuality and crushes on the app. Now, users have begun to see the flaws in this alias they have been given—teenagers, understanding that users will post to a board they have been tagged to, start trying to find out who posted what.

“Are you talking about the app?” Junior Nakayla Owens inquired when asked if she knew about the app. “Yeah, I’ve heard of it. My sister has it, and I’ve seen here use it before. I don’t have the app, but I’d probably get it if I had the chance.” When asked if she believed if it is easy for adolescents to be convinced they are safe behind nothing but an alias, she replied, “No. I think kids our age are pretty smart about what we do online.”

Eight other students were asked the same question: do you think it’s easy for students and teenagers to be convinced that they are safe behind nothing but an alias? Seven of them replied the same answer as mentioned. “No,” sophomores Ana Karina and Tatiana Vera. “I highly doubt we’d be uneducated enough to recognize what we post online.”

“Absolutely,” Rios commented. “I feel bad for you kids. I really do: this was not how growing up is supposed to be.” “Everything has an IP address,” Fernandez elaborated. “It would be easy to track anybody whenever they post something. If someone on an Android uses Google, you can track wherever they go based on their location. Even if you don’t think you can be tracked, or you don’t think people can find out who and where you are, they can.”

Recently, the press company known as The Guardian released an article pinning Whisper for reneging its oath. The only requirement Whisper has you fill out before creating an account is answering the following question: can Whisper access your location? A multitude of new users deny this access, however, investigative journalists Paul Lewis and Dominic Rushe working for The Guardian discovered that regardless of the answer, Whisper would innately track the user. After a controversy that even reached The Wall Street Journal, Whisper finally updated the app with a “Terms of Agreement” section, notifying users that Whisper will use location in order to track users and what they post. Suddenly, the anonymity of users isn’t so anonymous.

If Whisper is anything, it is another hook pulling a chasm apart, a chasm that grows between the adult generation and the millennial generation. As seen between the more traditional and experienced teachers at TERRA, and the student body that is more comfortable with rapidly developing technology, there is a wide difference. In the prospect of social media, a preponderance of evidence shows that fallacies and veneers set up by more than just the users of Whisper. With each rapid advancement, the safest thing to live by is the familiar adage. “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it.