It can be hard to see the good in ‘Peeple’

It can be hard to argue a case for modern day society when applications like “Peeple” are launched.

The pitch is simple: you look for someone in the search bar; rate them, read what other people think about this specific person. The criteria? Professional, personal and romantic life – the reviews would then be intertwined to give a “positivity rating” of the one person you’ve decided to judge on this application.

Peeple was created in 2015 and is going to be released to the world in about a month according to its creators: Julia Cordray and Nicole McCullough. Already valued at US$7.6m, the application seems to gain popularity without even being public yet.

A Peeple profile has to be linked to an official Facebook account, under a real name and photograph. If you think this is already terrible, let me add that once a review is written, there is no way to erase it – not even the possibility to delete your account if unsatisfied.

Harassment online has all too often lead to suicide, whether it be as a result of bullying on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube. Do we really need another trolling platform? Should people be scared of ending up on this website, maybe without their approval? It has been proven that anything is possible on the internet.

As expected, many people were terrified at this prospect of Peeple – to which the creators gave a response: they will ban any profanity, degrading comments, abuse, sexism, offensive references to mental health or disabilities, sexual and legal references, hateful content and racism. Peeple would be destined for positive comments only, a difficult thing to achieve on the Internet. To soothe the “weaker-minded” Cordray and McCullough say they won’t offer the app to those under 21.  

However, Cordray is hopeful and affirms there is a safety net around the application as you can only message someone once (to which I’d answer, once is enough to destroy somebody’s life). The reviews are supposed to expire after a year so the badly-rated have the opportunity to reflect on their past actions and “change for the better”.

I am probably being old-fashioned but I fail to understand the purpose of such an application – if the people rating you supposedly are your friends, wouldn’t they tell you face to face instead of drowning you with compliments or insults?

However, I came to the conclusion that we are already doing this. We are all already judging each other on social media, in fact it is an essential part of our activities on these websites. The ratings: the likes, the retweets, the favourites. This is the basis of social media whether we like it or not. We are the ones who supported this type of application: there is nothing ‘new’ about the concept Peeple is launching, apart from exposing the reality of what we already do regularly in real life situations.

In the same state of mind, we mustn’t forget that there is a useful tool presented to us here. Can you remember a moment in your life in which this kind of app would have been useful? Do you regret not listening to your friends when they told you that the gorgeous guy you dated three years ago was wrong for you? Let’s say you need to meet somebody to buy an item they promoted on gumtree: aren’t you curious to know if that person really is trustworthy?

There is something reassuring in your friends nodding in silence when you meet someone new, there is something reassuring in the knowledge of avoiding the one who could be bad for you. Dangerous situations could be avoided thanks to this app. We all judge people – this is nothing new. What could happen if we could judge them in order to help somebody else?

Thus, I am torn between the possibilities behind Peeple.

The creepiness of the situation is clear. I myself would never want to appear on such an app. Even if helpful, it would still ruin many aspects of social interaction: because of Peeple, an opinion will crawl its way into your head before even meeting a potential friend. The app would kill the spontaneous feeling we get from people. It would destroy our imagination and daydreams about the guy from Sociology 2B, or maybe just reinforce them. But where is the thrill in that? Where is the anticipation of getting to know these new faces? Likewise, do your Facebook friends know you well enough to “rate” you? Also, there is always the possibility that a bad review could keep you from being hired by that boss who replaced the Facebook check with a Peeple one.

Ultimately, the human version of Yelp may have arrived but I still remain hopeful: social interactions are the rock of our society and it seems very unlikely to see them endangered by an app. Do not be scared, users, you’ve seen worse.

[Laura F. Ben Aicha]

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