Do you remember the beginning? The beta days of Internet when anonymity reigned? It was a time when people—unburdened by the cultivation of cyber personas—interacted with each other on a vague ID level. Screen names, chat rooms, the anticipation of a dial-up tone—it was all unfiltered desires, in a context-free space. The Internet stone age mystique is so far removed from today’s culture of Facebook TMI that it’s even difficult to recall the rolodex of screen names we once combed through.
But Whisper, a new social media app hot with the twentysomethings, has reopened the possibility of anonymous over-sharing.
And when do most people have a tendency to over-share? When they have been over-served. (Though some people in our Facebook feed seem to be hardwired to broadcast personal information round-the-clock.)
The social media app allows users to express thoughts detached from identity in the simple form of text superimposed on an image, meme style. Its founders set out to create an outlet for content that wouldn’t be tied to a person’s “real life” ego. For a generation who grew up on social media sites that operate like an editable highlight reel, Whisper is an alternative avenue where the stuff that isn’t so pretty can live. The app is popular, especially on college campuses (according to New York Magazine, “During peak hours, Whisper gets twenty submissions per second”), indicating that the creators have tapped into a collective impulse to broadcast the full spectrum of authentic experiences, some of which seemed to go underground when people discarded the anonymity of the early internet in favor of platforms like Facebook and Twitter.
In some ways this is a return to the years of chat rooms and screen names. The concurrent use of social media platforms that serve seemingly opposite functions (some define while others disguise identity) parallels the once common practice of using multiple usernames; they are both methods of expressing one’s multifaceted sense of self.
When these nameless confessions and aspirations collide with alcohol, the results can be spectacular. Especially when paired with the app’s odd trove of image suggestions. Sometimes sweet, often alarming, Whisper’s archive of probably-drunk posts are double the inhibitions-to-the-wind, double the horror. We took a tour of the dumping ground that is Whisper to bring you a peephole into the weirdest (most intoxicated) recesses of human emotions, fast.