I confess, in my times of need, Whisper has always been my go-to. Whisper, the anonymous post-and-chat app, is a great place to express anything that has been bothering you or anything that’s on your mind, without the risk of being identified. the ‘guidelines’ tell you, the user, not to be ‘gross’ (so no sex chat), not to be mean and a few other bits and pieces, so it sounds good, right?
You’ve probably seen Whisper mentioned a few times on places like Buzzfeed. People write a short amount of text about something they want to get off their chest, choose (or upload) a background image, and post. Just occasionally, Buzzfeed includes user posts from Whisper as part of a blog post topic, but the branded text-graphics are seen all over the internet.
What Whisper is for: As previously mentioned, Whisper is a safe place designed for sharing thoughts and making friends. It can be a great place for sharing gloomy thoughts, embarrassing stories, weight loss achievements, coming out support and everything in between. It can even be a great place for striking up conversations with similarly-minded people and building lasting friendships. However, in between all of these lovely, shiny posts, Whisper also has a dark side.
What Whisper is not for: Whisper was not designed to act as a dating or hook-up app. The app invites users to “share secrets- express yourself- meet new people”, nothing at all about dating or hooking up.
A little about me: I studied GCSE Sociology and Psychology in 2006. In a class of 25 students, I was the only one permitted to interview 40 participants on my crime survey (rather than the initial 20) because I was the only person who my tutor felt could handle so much data. Having found some really interesting findings in my surveys, I’ve enjoyed researching and testing other theories and analysing the results from those tests ever since. With that in mind, I decided to make Whisper my chosen topic for this weekend.
My theory: That Whisper is inadertently being used for sexual proclivities, of course!
The experiment: I wanted to demonstrate for all of my wonderful readers just quite how quickly the chat turns sexual on this platform. To do this, I would create an innocent-seeming post, and record the age and gender of the respondent, along with how long it took them to mention sex if they mentioned sex at all.
That Whisper couldn’t find restore my account was a bonus. Without the back-up, I appeared as an inexperienced newbie poster, a perfect guise for what I was trying to do. I drafted a friendly post for this blind social experiment that invited users to strike up a conversation with a bored housewife, though do note that I said nothing about being alone. Housewives sometimes have kids, you know.
I wasn’t left waiting for long.
The following graphs show the results that I obtained from exactly 90 respondents. Each respondent was categorized by their gender, age and how quickly they mentioned sex, along with the willingness of some to ‘ghost’ me upon realising that I wasn’t airbrushed into perfection. As you will see from my results, it’s not difficult to see what Whisper is really being used for.
A Male-Oriented Platform
The first thing to note is the overwhelming male response. More than 3 in 4 respondents were male, even though my post was open to everyone. Even though 18 of the respondents were of unknown gender, it was beyond a reasonable doubt to assume that a majority of them, if not all, were male. Females were also accounted, with a total of 0 identified female respondents, and 3 identifying as Other.
Most Whisperers are Twenty-Somethings
For the next part of this experiment, I noted down how old the respondents were. With a lot of younger people willing to criticise the forty-something “pervs” on Whisper, it’s interesting to note that more than 40% of those who replied were 21-29 years old and just over 11% were in their forties and over. As is with most things on social media, my findings demonstrated that the vast majority of users on this platform are young adults. Again, it was also reasonable to assume that a majority of those in the ‘unknown’ age range were most likely to be in their twenties.
Whisper Is About Sex
My beloved husband criticised me for my post inviting horny young men to engage me in conversation, and yet, I argued that that was very much open for interpretation. It was, I argued, only inviting if you perceived it that way. I invited users to strike up a conversation with me with a friendly smiley, rather than a suggestive winky face. I am naive and innocent, remember? 😉
Of 90 responses, nearly 70% turned the conversation towards sex, and more than 5% were willing to offer photos of their body to a complete stranger. Those who initiated the conversation with a sexual tone (“hey babe”, as an example) were noted as “instant offenders” and were immediately ignored, and those who mentioned sex as time went on (some in as little as a minute) were similarly noted and ignored. That green section on my chart, however, are the 14 who didn’t try to talk about sex – I take my hat off to them because they treat Whisper exactly as it should be treated!
Ghosting Is Alive And Well On Whisper
Even if one of the community guidelines states that you should be nice, blocking and ghosting (the act of going silent and no contact on someone) based entirely on my appearance did happen a fair few times. So as not to rumble my work, I did send a very generic photograph of myself with minimal make-up to those who requested it. Three of the 11 asked “Is that you now?”. Like no, me now (or rather, then) is in jogging bottoms and messy hair, post-Zumba.
Regardless, of the 11 who saw my photo, 8 of them decided that I simply was no longer worthy of their time. One man, a self-proclaimed masseuse even claimed that I wasn’t his type (I thought ‘paying customer’ was their only type? I must be mistaken!) before blocking me. Although I’ve never defined myself as ugly, blocking and ghosting based purely on physical appearance has the potential to wreak havoc on the confidence of other users, particularly young people.
Some Interesting Findings
Having looked back on my results, the average user likely to mention sex is a 20+ year-old male, and the user least likely to mention sex is 36 years, or older. Not only this but the individual most likely to offer me photographs of their body fell into Whisper’s 21-25-year-old age range, at three of the five individuals who offered. The individual most likely to ‘ghost’ was a 30-35-year-old male.
Despite the suggestion that Whisper was full of “perverts and paedophiles”, only 4 of the 10 respondents in 36-45+ age ranges mentioned sex at all, and those who were most likely to criticise the “horny old men” were actually the guilty party!
Uh oh! Those Times I Got Rumbled
During this experiment, there were a handful of times when my investigation was ‘unblinded’ by some respondents. Five of the six respondents were favourable, with only one deciding to terminate the conversation. Perhaps most interestingly, two of the respondents who were interested in and have supported my investigation since were older men!
‘Bored Housewife’ Test: The Conclusion
Overall, it is not difficult to see what Whisper is really being used for. Even if Whisper claims not to be for hookups and sex chat and even if the administrators post daily posts to encourage clean, active friendly sharing, it is with great sadness that I have to report that Whisper has an underwhelming sexual tone. There was the time before that I posted (very innocently!) about my neighbour and the time I shared a photo of my dog, both of which led to individuals asking f I’d ever slept with my neighbour or “done anything weird” with my dog. On Whisper, it seems, everything can get back to sex.
Battery Life: The Final Criticism
The last thing you need to be aware of with Whisper is the rate at which it consumes your battery power. Even after a 3-hour charge, I found my phone still only at 51%. Normally, a 3-hour charge would see my battery at 100%. Not only, but I typically require 4-6 full or partial charges with Whisper on my phone. Without it, my phone, a Samsung A40, will typically last a day on one 3-hour charge.
A Nod To Non-Binary People
Of course, it’s easy to criticise and yet in all of this, there was one tiny little finding that deserved to be highlighted in twelve-metre neon letters- and that is the level of respect from non-binary people. Of the three respondents who identified their gender as ‘other’, not one of them mentioned sex at all and were, for the most part, even able to hold down a fun and light-hearted conversation. In a time where some people struggle to understand the non-binary concept, that level of respect is something that we should be thanking and respecting them for!
I hope that this research has been helpful for you and I hope that it will give you pause for consideration before installing the app. Out of courtesy, I will try to find a way to notify the Whisper team of my findings, if I can.
In the mean time, have you used Whisper? How did you find it? Why not share your stories in the comments?
Until next time!
Stay safe & have fun,