User review site Peeples lets us digitally judge ourselves and our neighbors—but will this make us better people?
Peeple's new app and user-generated rating system--because casting the first stone has never looked so hip. Image via Peeple.
Fans of the BBC sci-fi drama Black Mirror had a field day—albeit, a dark and slightly harrowing one—last month when allegations were made in an unauthorized biography of British Prime Minister David Cameron that he sodomized a pig corpse in an unorthodox university ritual. For those familiar with the show, the debut episode featured the kidnapping of a princess whose ransom was that the fictitious Prime Minister would have to, err, fornicate with a live pig on national television. The pressure surmounted for the character because the ransom note, so to speak, was posted to YouTube, so there was no ability to keep it private. What Black Mirror accomplishes is a projection of a future where technological advancements essentially lead to our own emotional self-destruction. There are episodes that feature the ability to block someone in real life, chips that can be implanted in our necks that function as a DV-R for our own lives, and the ability to recreate a lost loved one through a service that culls social media to make an authentic replica. And while the Cameron incident does absolutely nothing to signify that we’re closer to a Black Mirror reality that would be at all comfortable, a new app called Peeple seems like a step in that direction.
Expecting to launch in November, Peeple is a review product that will allow you to rate actual people that you know in your life, either personally, professionally or romantically. (Probably time to stop texting people, “Netflix and chill,” eh?) Don’t bask in the sweet relief of, “Well, I just won’t sign up for it and it won’t affect me” just yet. According to a report in The Washington Post , there is no option to opt-out. In fact, anyone that has your phone number can add you to the Peeple database and decide your value in a five-star rating system. Co-founder Julia Cordray said in the same WaPo piece, “People do so much research when they buy a car or make those kinds of decisions. Why not do the same kind of research in other aspects of your life?”
Because people are not cars! We should not be subjected to the same kind of scrutiny as whether or not a restaurant has good Pad Thai or if the acting in a Marvel Comics movie is good or not. Peeple will ultimately break people down into commodities instead of, you know, living creatures with the ability to experience life and evolve. Cordray believes that people should want to “show [their] character” to others—but we should be getting that from actually experiencing another person or, at its basest, reading someone’s Twitter feed.
Fortunately, if you do not sign up for Peeple, your negative reviews will not go live. The positive ones will immediately post to your profile, but the negative ones will be private for 48 hours so that users have the ability to discredit them. This is part of Peeple’s “integrity features.” They also include having a Facebook profile, being over the age of 21, the ability to “raise concern about bullying or shaming,” and a ban against profanity, bigotry and sensitive personal details, like health. I’d like to suggest, though, that the biggest marker of someone’s integrity would be to not sign up for this service at all.
Peeple’s other founder Nicole McCullough, according to the Post, was interested in developing the app for more personal concerns. Writes the Post’s Caitlin Dewey, “As a mother of two in an era when people don’t always know their neighbors, she wanted something to help her decide whom to trust with her kids.” Here’s a novel suggestion: Why don’t you get to know someone someone the old fashion way by talking to them? If the tight grip of smartphone addiction has you tripped up on how to make small talk, I have a prompt for you: “Hey neighbor, you ever watch that British show on Netflix Black Mirror?”