A burning secret forms in her head as she grabs her cell phone and begins to search for a photograph.
She chooses one, types her secret as a caption over the image, and hits the upload button.
So goes another post uploaded to the Whisper application by second-year mathematics student Ruby Luk, who is one of many students using the app at UCLA.
Since being tested and launched at UCLA in April, Whisper has generated attention in over a dozen college campuses across the nation.
The app gives users the ability to tag their location on a confessional post that consists of a caption superimposed over an image of their choice.
Some of the popular UCLA posts range from “This is the first bed I’ve had in four years. I’m so thankful to be at UCLA. Going from being homeless to putting myself through college feels amazing,” to “I feel like I was smarter in high school than (in) college and it terrifies me.”
With currently over 100,000 users, Whisper allows UCLA students to post their thoughts and secrets about college life, although numerous students said they did not know about the app and questioned whether it is gaining traction.
“I have no idea what the Whisper app is, and I don’t know anyone who uses it either,” said first-year political science student Adrienne Jackson.
Even though Whisper has UCLA users, it is not widely known on campus.
Jackson said part of the reason might be because there are already so many popular social apps and sites that it is difficult for a new app to become successful.
From the beginning, co-founder of Whisper Michael Heyward said he focused on exploring different ways to get users to interact with each other, and the location feature made it possible.
Heyward said Whisper filters each post uploaded, and shows the closest secrets from anywhere on campus to each user in order to provide a more personal interaction between them.
“If you look at the relationship that people have with their phones, it’s nonstop. So with Whisper, we wanted to connect people and their social interaction,” Heyward said.
“It made sense to develop it for the mobile platform since it’s on-the-go.”
Heyward also said a college environment is where people come together and form opinions on other people based on social media, so everyone’s life seems much more positive than it is, and Whisper is the place for truth and expression.
“With Whisper we’re all about really trying to show people things in a different light,” Heyward said.
“We try and create this platform where people can go and be themselves and have an opportunity to observe their peer group. UCLA was the first place where we saw this organic growth.”
Second-year English student Priscilla Limcaco is a frequent Whisper user, and said the location feature on Whisper is interesting because it forms a sense of community between users.
“I think the tone is generally more supportive than judgmental on Whisper,” Limcaco said.
“Usually people post about things that sadden them or something scandalous, so you’ll always see people that repost or who reply with “˜yeah me too’ or “˜I totally feel the same way, I’m there for you,’ so it’s kind of like a community.”
Since users can comment and provide instant feedback for others who post a relatable confession near them, there are sometimes differences of opinion that create a debate among users.
“Around the election season, people got really heated over some of the posts,” Limcaco said.
“People would reply to a secret about a presidential opinion, and sometimes they would be disrespectful, and seeing how people can get heated over someone’s opinion was crazy, so it did get to that point.”
Luk said posting her secrets on Whisper helps her release stress caused by family, classes and studying, so when she gets a supportive reply it helps her stay positive.
“I was having this really terrible day a few weeks ago during midterms, and so I posted about it on Whisper,” Luk said.
“Within a few hours I had replies and likes on my post offering advice, and so I thought it was quite nice to have people near you do something like that.”
On the other hand, second-year physiological science student Katlyne Floresca said Whisper’s allure is popular now, but it may not continue to be in the future.
“I think Whisper is kind of like Myspace and Facebook, because it gets really addictive for a while but then it starts to die down,” Floresca said.
In addition, first-year English student Ray Chowdhury said since Whisper users are anonymous, they can post fake content, which makes it unreliable.
“It’s a really great idea for an app, but sometimes people just use it the wrong way,” Chowdhury said.
“There are some scandalous posts about people who say they hook up three times a week and other stuff that it just seems like everyone’s making it up. I don’t use it, and I don’t think I will anytime soon for that reason.”
Although Whisper’s users are anonymous, Heyward said the app provides a real-time connection between them, and it can lead to quick feedback and support.
“Even though I don’t know anyone on Whisper, I feel like I’m part of an anonymous community of supporting students,” Luk said.
“There’s a certain comfort that it has for me, so it’s good to know I’m not the only one who struggles with school problems.”