Just a few years ago, social media were regarded primarily as a place for high school and college students to socialize and connect. As innovations in the technological world of social networking advance, the influence of social media over the way people of all ages around the world receive and share information has grown tremendously. Social media have redefined relationships, both personal and professional, so much that individuals can share moments of their everyday lives and connect with whomever they wish with just a status update, tweet and/or photograph.
Facebook remains by far the most popular social network, with 829 million daily active users on average last month. There are several types of Facebook users. Some love to broadcast the moments of their lives onto the site very frequently. Others post updates from time to time. However, there are many users who read all information on their news feeds but post and comment very seldom on the site. If the purpose of social networks is to promote connectivity among users, then why do people opt out of the contributing end of the spectrum?
Ben Kaiser, a Modesto High alumnus and senior at the University of California at Berkeley, offers an answer. “I love Facebook and other networking sites and … spend hours scrolling through news feeds each day, but recently I began to notice something really odd. I never actually posted on these sites. After much thought, I realized that as the time between my last statuses grew longer, I began to feel more and more uncomfortable sharing my thoughts and pictures for all my friends to see.”
Ben and his older brother Michael Kaiser, who also attended UC Berkeley, have built a solution that should allow users to feel more comfortable sharing personal content. “Knowing that many other people must also be experiencing this ‘Facebook phobia,’ Michael and I realized that an anonymous social network would be the perfect medium for friends and family to freely express themselves,” Ben said. The brothers long had been captivated by the way digital tools inform and influence the public. When they came across this issue that concerns many social media users, a new concept born out of a familiar scenario was produced – a concept they named Berri.
“Berri is a forum that welcomes friends to come together and share secrets and thoughts anonymously in a safe and secure environment,” Ben said. The free app currently is available on the iTunes App Store. It is linked through Facebook so a user will see only posts made by his/her “friends” on Facebook. But all posts made on the app are anonymous; therefore, users can feel protected as they secretly post their thoughts and opinions for their Facebook friends to see.
As its creators see it, Berri can be beneficial to many people. “Berri is valuable for those that have grown timid to expressing their feelings and thoughts on public media forums,” said Ben. “In addition, Facebook users can now freely post on Berri without any repercussions because each post is anonymous.” In this way, the app encourages users to discuss anything, from daily personal concerns to worldly political issues, without fear that the conversation could be associated to their real-world identity.
Berri’s design also distinguishes it from many other traditional media outlets. In comparison to the vertical news feeds of sites such as Facebook and Twitter, Berri contains two diverse news feed styles. The app opens up with two columns of posts in boxy shapes that a user can scroll up or down to view. If a post is clicked, it expands to full-screen mode for enhanced presentation. Once a post is in full-screen mode, users can swipe to the left and right to see posts made by other users. This functionality gives Berri both a horizontal and vertical news feed performance.
Another fun feature of Berri is its “leaderboard.” When a user posts a status, his or her friends can give that status a “Berri like.” If a user receives enough Berri likes in relation to his/her Facebook friends, then he/she will make it onto the Berri leaderboard, which shows the top 10 users with the most Berri likes. This competitive facet of the app is sure to appeal and engross users.
Given that the posts are anonymous, there’s the question of how Berri will deal with trolling behavior or spam. Ben says members can report or flag comments and posts that are inappropriate. After three reports, that post automatically will be removed. Therefore, users can feel secure when using the app.
Berri adds a new dimension to social media by presenting its anonymous edge. It breaks the barrier between those who want to contribute to the social networking world and those who want to maintain privacy. As Michael and Ben see it, the broader goal for the app is simply to see an increase of communication among friends, as well as enjoyment among users because they will be able to write updates and converse without the fear that everything discussed will be permanently engraved in stone.