I’ll admit, I was a little late to the game when it came to being outraged over Peeple, the app informally dubbed as “Yelp for People”. By the time I heard about the controversial app, most of the concerns voiced by the public had already been addressed.
When the Washington Post first wrote about the app, there was no way to opt out or monitor what people were saying about you, you could start profiles for other people, and people were rated on a one to five star basis – it was basically going to turn into a digital burn book.
The public outrage over the app was fierce, forcing co-founders Julia Cordray and Nicole McCullough to go on the defensive, insisting that Peeple “has always been a positivity app.” When that didn’t work, the social networking pages and the website suddenly disappeared, making people think that Peeple may have been a hoax.
With all the news surrounding it, I had to try Peeple for myself. For better or for worse, I wanted to know what people thought of me, and I needed to see how Peeple really worked.
When I opened the app, I was forced to sign up through Facebook to ensure some semblance of authenticity and accountability. Next, I had to put in my phone number and be sent a code in order to prove that yes, I am Patrick Hoff. Props to Peeple for having extra verification – if you’re going somewhere controversial, you might as well go heavily armored.
By connecting Facebook, you can also see which of your friends are using Peeple so you can leave “recommendations” for them. I found my girlfriend (because I made her sign up with me), and left her a recommendation.
Instead of stars, the launched version of Peeple has faces: smiling for “positive,” straight-faced for “neutral” and frowning for “negative.” You also can choose how you know the person: professional, personal or dating. Strangely, I couldn’t select “dating” for my girlfriend, so I chose personal and left her a sentence or two.
What I was most interested in, though, was what happens when someone else leaves you a recommendation. In the original announcement of Peeple, Cordray and McCullough said every recommendation would appear on your profile, impossible to remove. Then, they said negative ones would be filtered, only displayed publicly if the user chose.
How it actually works is that every recommendation, positive, neutral or negative, is sent to a private box for the user to approve before appearing on the profile. So in reality, the public pressure applied seemed to have worked, and instead of being Yelp for humans, Peeple is effectively nothing more than LinkedIn for friendships.
Of course, there’s still the possibility that negative reviews could pile up in someone’s inbox and ruin their spirits. It certainly won’t ruin their reputation though, as nobody other than the user and the reviewer would ever know that they gossip and chew with their mouth open.
The whole app is ridiculous, really. We as humans are so addicted to feedback, so thirsty to know what others think about an experience before we embark on it, that we’ve resorted to thinking we need to rate each other, like a restaurant, or a Slap Chop. And we have developed this constant need for attention and the need to know what people around us are really thinking. But then of course we don’t want too much honesty about ourselves, because that might hurt our feelings.
My guess is, muted or not, due to our fickle nature as people, Peeple probably never had much of a shot at anything beyond a few good headlines. When the context forces your concept to be very very dangerous, or very very boring, you’re not giving yourself much room for popularity.
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