I really wanted to like Secret, the new anonymous gossip and confession-sharing app that hugely popular in tech circles right now.
Secret pulls from your phone’s contact list, adds friends of friends, and the mixes in a bit of random timing and virality so it’s tough to figure out who may have posted what even if you have only a few friends on the app. It renders all activity on the app completely anonymous — so people can write whatever they like.
It’s a great idea, simple in principle and cleverly executed, with a no-instructions interface.
On paper, it ought to be huge — and it may yet well be.
The intention of founders David Byttow and Chrys Bader (both formerly of Google) is a noble one. “The goal is to not build only an app, but a platform that will bring more authenticity, self-awareness and empathy to the world,” their corporate blog says. Here’s a theoretically “perfect” Secret post, involving a puppy and a funny confession:
But a huge number of Secrets are not at all like this. Most often, reading posts on Secret makes me want to take a shower afterwards.
It’s a pit of sleaze, self-loathing and preening that makes Ask.fm — the anonymous social network favoured by teen bullies — look refreshingly unpretentious by comparison.
Here are some examples. We’ll start with the narcissism.
This person is complaining — complaining! — that he or she has more than $US1 million in cash in the bank:
OK. So maybe the author was trying to say something deeper than a mere humblebrag about his/her personal or wealth.
But that author is not the only rich whiner on Secret:
So … it’s bad that you’re a millionaire? Or it’s cheesy that you’re not actually a millionaire because you’re counting a house and a retirement plan that aren’t exactly liquid? Or are you trying to tell us that you’re annoyed at yourself for not becoming a Tibetan freedom fighter, as you promised you would in college?
Right now, Secret is in its early adolescence. It hasn’t caught on big — yet. But it is the talk of the tech world, and secrets being shared in the app obviously skew heavily from people in Silicon Valley.
Money features a lot inside Secret:
Money and status, of course:
These posts aren’t typical of all Secrets. But they aren’t hard to find either. A lot of Secret submissions are like this.
People love to ‘confess’ — by which they mean brag — about the service professionals they use:
Those evil Uber drivers, selfishly trying to make sure you know they’re ready to drive you around town. How dare they!
The common thread here is that people are using Secret to show off, not to reveal their innermost vulnerabilities.
This person sums up the atmosphere on Secret right now:
The truncated nature of the format makes it difficult to know whether people are being serious or sarcastic.
For instance, is this person laughing or cringing?
And it’s insufferably smug:
It’s not just about money and status, though. The smugness stretches to relationships, too.
Look what this person is complaining about:
How hard can your life be if your big “secret” is that your girlfriend paid insufficient attention to you while you were drinking wine in the countryside?
Ego is a big part of Secret.
This person was shocked to learn they weren’t the center of anyone else’s universe.
And this person is peeved when their friends merely look away from them.
Now for the self-loathing …
A bunch of people on Secret think about killing themselves with one quick jump …
Or a series of slow ones …
It’s not all bad. Perhaps, as the user base grows, the Secret “community” will mature beyond Silicon Valley, and users will write more careful, interesting posts.
Indeed, some secrets are already tantalising enough to be entertaining.