This morning, a friend of mine sent me an email.

“A friend of mine is going to kill themselves, according to Secret,” he wrote. He attached the image above. Secret is an app where people can post anything they want anonymously.

My friend told me he didn’t know what to do. He didn’t know who had written the post, because that’s the whole point of Secret’s platform. All he knew was that whoever wrote it was someone he had stored in his contacts. The only option, it seemed, was to report the message to Secret. A drop down box allowed him to check “self harm” as the reason for reporting the post. After being flagged, the suicide threat disappeared.

And that was it. It could be a troll, sure. The internet has its fair share of those. Or maybe it’s someone clammering for attention.

But what if it isn’t? That’s someone you’re friends with.

Then what?

Anonymous apps have been all over the news in the last few months. Whisper, another anonymous app just raised $36 million, giving it $60 million in total funding. At the end of 2013, Whisper was doing 3 billion pageviews per month. Then there’s Yik Yak, another anonymous app that’s popular with teenagers. It stopped time in high school hallways everywhere.

Secret gives you a blank box to write a small amount of text in, and has mostly served as a venue for Silicon Valley startup speculation and inside-tech baseball smear campaigns.

People are encouraged to post anything, estranging themselves from their identity.

But Secret has that one crucial piece that the others do not: You know if a Secret is coming from a “Friend.” This creates a new element of sustainable community that Whisper and Yik Yak may not have, but, in a case where the poster is threatening to harm themselves or others, it also creates one that an innocent bystander may not want to be a part of.

Anonymous sites have never been lacking in threats of self-harm.

PostSecret founder Frank Warren made an entire career out of collecting people’s secrets, choosing the most aesthetically pleasing, gripping ones, and packaging them up to be sold to the masses.

Messages like this were all over PostSecret:


Lots of people felt connected to those secrets. But no one felt responsible for them. There — For more information read the original article here.    

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