Let me go against the tide and say it: It’s a loss. I believe in the concept of Secret, the app that caught people’s fancy last year, and has now shut shop.
There is a lot of talk about why Secret is shutting down (“I told you so” moment for some) and the bandwagon seems to claim that it was because of the “negativity” due to the concept of anonymity. I beg to differ.
Here is my take on the issue – why I think Secret has value.
Our society is made up of people’s feelings, emotions, beliefs and opinions. But most of these are not to be seen, discussed, or challenged. They are masked under many layers, like an onion skin – and we express them based on who we are with, what is politically correct and how we want to be perceived. I will greet someone with a smile while slapping him inside my head. I cannot reveal the truth about the mammoth corporate that I work for – social media policies or just out of fear of next appraisal – but I know they are sucking the life out of me.
I cannot talk about LGBT rights because my parents will think I’m gay and they have a hard time differentiating between being gay and a gay rights supporter. And so many such things that never get out of a person’s head or a small room of trusted comrades. You get the drift.
Given this reality, platforms like Facebook and Instagram enable me to put on more layers (or filters!) to glamorize my life so that I can show off. It allows me to talk politically correct so that I can be seen as forward-thinking – although I may just be sailing with the tide. These platforms show me an “edited” version of people’s lives. I will see my friend receiving an “Employee of the Week” from his arrogant boss for working like a donkey at the corporate machine that doles out such awards like candy, but I will not see when my friend is depressed due to a family problem. This is as good as wrapping the onion in more layers of artificial plastic so that you are further away from what is at the core.
Secret solved one problem – it allowed me to share anything I cannot on Facebook or Twitter. To me, it was just Facebook with anonymity, which is a great use case. Essentially I liked it because it allowed people to peel off the layers and see what is at the core.
Yes, sometimes what was revealed was not good. It was ugly. Bashing a VC, expressing sexual thoughts about someone with their Twitter handle, grapevine talk about a startup or its founders, expressing anger for one’s boss or family and many such instances, and of course all the sex talk.
But there was also good content about people’s lives being turned around – someone with an addiction going without drugs for weeks, someone standing up to their boss, someone finally able to confess about cheating to her husband. In fact there were taboo topics being discussed with great passion on Secret. The good part was that everyone contributed their “real” thoughts. If you were to start such a discussion on Facebook, you know what will happen – judgments, sweeping politically correct statements, everything except people’s real thoughts.
Being overwhelmed by the negativity, most of my friends did not want to see the value that this platform could drive. Some people who were bashed by their friends, colleagues preferred to leave the platform, others simply became inactive. It is understandable since most of these posts were irresponsible in nature because of the anonymity factor. But it did not mean the entire platform was useless.
There were so many posts that were brave, encouraging, even inspiring to a level. Then there were people who supported their friends, colleagues, acquaintances with their words. This potential could have been harnessed. Secret had the potential to show us what our society is really made of. There is good and ugly. We can see the good if we have the courage to bear the ugly.
But, as it turns out, we’re more interested in putting artificial make up on Instagram and Facebook than peeling the layers and looking at the society naked.
[About the author: Pareen is the founder of The Alumni Portal. He is part of The Morpheus Gang, Startup Leadership (SLP) Network and Nurtured at TiE Bootcamp]