For The Peeple
As time progresses, and technology advances, mobile applications have become a staple in post-industrial life. From ordering groceries to finding true love, there are an endless number of applications offering to make life a bit more enjoyable. Wired within us is the power of judgement, and as humans, to judge is in our nature. Good judgement often leads to a wholesome, long life, whereas poor judgement is prone to generate sadness and despair. In the technological age that we inhabit, judging has become a communal effort that we share with our fellow man. There are popular applications that put ratings and reviews of just about everything a click and a swipe away. However, starting March 7, 2016 a new rating application will debut on the market, and its use is a bit different than the rest. This application is called, “Peeple” and it’s purpose is to rate people. “Peeple the ‘Yelp for People’ App That Terrified Everyone, Launches Monday,” is the long title for a short article documenting the release of an application that may change the world. Though the title is long, and the article short, there is no shortage of sociological concepts and theories at play in the text.
The article details the long anticipated release of the Peeple application. When the concept was first publicized, major public backlash ensued. Originally, there was no choice of the user whether or not they would have a profile. Personal participation was an option, not a prerequisite. Anybody and everybody stood the risk of being unscrupulously rated by a jury of their peers. Not surprisingly, the distaste of this feature formed an angry mob of citizens aiming to protect the personal lives and reputations. Following thousands of pieces of hate mail and even more death threats, the people of Peeple decided to delay the launch of their platform and rethink their business plan. Originally marketed with the slogan, “Yelp for humans,” the application gained an overall negative perception. “Yelp” is often used by angry customers to voice their opinions and share their experience pertaining to a given company’s shortcomings. In response, “Peeple” has restructured its purpose to becoming a, “Positivity Application.” Only those who choose to participate will be an active element in the network, and users are allowed to decided what information about themselves they want to be published. However, a paid feature will soon debut allowing members to see content that was not approved by the subject of scrutiny. The sociological implications and applications of such a brazen application are vast.
The focus of the “Peeple” application lies within the constructs of applied sociology. According to James Henslin, applied sociology is using sociology to solve problems (Henslin, 12). In this case, the problem is the general lack of information regarding the people in society. The solution provided is a five star rating system built by a jury of one’s own peers, meant to portray respective character strengths and weaknesses. Within the confines of micro sociology, symbolic interactionism is critical for the application to remain relevant, and face-to-face interactions are the key to generating useful information. (Henslin, 19)
Social interaction is likely to adapt as the application gains popularity. Knowing that our every action may be publicly scrutinized may cause people to manipulate their behavior. Dramaturgy is a term stating that social life is like a drama or a stage play (Henslin, 115). With our once personal lives now broadcast to the public, one’s behavior is likely to reflect the image they would like to portray. The problem is, the image we desire to be perceived is rarely a just representation of who they really are.
By allowing users to decide what it is they would like published about them, the functions of the site have been greatly altered. “We have ideas about how we want others to think of us, and we use our roles in everyday life to communicate these ideas.” (Henslin, 115) Impression management is one of the main ingredients of the new and, “improved,” application, allowing users to brand themselves as a certain type of individual. Reputation Management is the term Peeple has chosen to describe their impression management system. Also, with our performance in everyday roles recorded in the annals of web history, it is possible circumstances of a self-fulfilling stereotype may emerge. Any Peeple savvy user will have the resources necessary to investigate and form opinions about the people they know, as well as those they do not. Perceptions will be formed before any actual contact has taken place, and in some circumstances the preconceived stereotypes will be strengthened. (Henslin, 139) The functioning of sociological groups even stand to feel the impact of this controversial application.
Not even primary and secondary groups will be left untouched by the wide reaching impact of the Peeple application. A primary group consists of family and friends, whereas secondary groups are largely more impersonal and formal. Examples of secondary groups include associations and work colleagues. (Henslin, 130) Peeple will allow users to rate anyone as if they are grouped together, even if they are not a part of either of these groups. From this ability it is possible that we may see the emergence of yet another group classification.
Peeple is an application that has the potential to change the world as we know it. It is in serious violation of many American folkways, and stands to restructure what we now consider acceptable behavior. The thought of the application alone summons tangible emotions in the hearts of those it touches, and that is just the beginning. Only time will tell what will come of the application and whether it will sink or swim. However, Peeple has undoubtedly made waves for the people of sociology.