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'whisper' app allows students to share secrets

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While not everyone may be comfortable sharing their deepest, darkest secrets on Facebook or Twitter, there is a new social media that allows interactive and anonymous sharing of thoughts.

A new iPhone app released in April called "whisper" allows users to post secrets anonymously in real time and then receive feedback and comments from other users.

Michael Heyward, co-founder of whisper, wanted to create a unique social media experience for app users.

"The whole idea around whisper is that the social web has become this place where people have a lot of superficial interactions," Heyward wrote in an email. "I was compelled to create a place for people to be able to have authentic dialogue and express themselves in a uniquely genuine way."

The app aims to achieve this goal by providing a number of features that help users share what is on their mind. To post a secret, app users either choose a photo they have saved on their iPhone or select one from the Internet. The app includes filters that can be applied to the photo.

Then, app users enter their text. Usually, a post can contain between four and six sentences. Finally, users post their entry anonymously, which allows others to see the post.

"It kind of lets you be creative," said Sarah Rose Attman, head publicist for the whisper app and owner of Sarah Rose Public Relations LLC.

Users can also choose whether they would like to post using a username or whether they would like to post anonymously. Location can also be included or excluded.

Others can view secrets a user has posted and either "like" or comment on the secret. Sometimes, two users will have an entire conversation with each other through the app.

One key function of the app is when viewing secrets, users can view all posts that have been made within one mile of them through the "nearby" option.

Attman said at the University of California, Los Angeles, one of the first college campuses where whisper became prevalent, communities have grown around the app. The "nearby" option makes the growth of such communities possible.

"They're talking about the campus. They're talking about the professors," Attman said of UCLA students. "It kind of makes it more relevant and exciting."

The topics of the secrets posted vary. Some secrets will be lighthearted and funny. Some users will ask other users how their day went. However, others will post secrets that deal with their sexuality.

Eric Silver, professor of sociology at Penn State, said there might be some value in confessing secrets.

"The practice of 'confession' is deeply rooted in our Christian-dominated, therapy-driven culture," he said. "Getting secrets off of our chests is often good for the soul."

However, Silver questions whether confessing secrets has as much therapeutic value when done anonymously. If it does, he believes whisper could be successful.

Heyward wrote that the app has received positive feedback so far. It has received almost 100,000 downloads, and there are close to one million page views per day. Heyward also wrote that he has read many positive comments about the app. Some whisper users have made posts saying they prefer the app to Facebook.

The app is free. It is currently available only for the iPhone but will be made available for Android in the future. It can be downloaded through the Apple store or at whisper.sh.

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