In 2007 and 2008, if you were a college student, you may have heard of Juicy Campus — it was a gossip blog about real college students allowing for uncensored anonymous posts. The website drew attention because it was the equivalent of a digital burn book with absolutely no content standards, a forum for crowning the “biggest slut on campus,” and a swamp of general trashcan behavior. Life-ruining rumors got posted by users hiding behind anonymity. Parents and educators and non-jerk students were outraged. Some students participated, others sobbed in bathrooms after getting called an anorexic dork. It was a generally terrible website that makes Ask.FM look like a church singalong.
Juicy Campus was created by Matt Ivester, who launched it shortly after graduating from Duke. He vociferously defended his website at the time. When finances tanked in 2009 and he had to shut Juicy Campus down, he didn’t sound apologetic about his creation, urging users to “Keep it Juicy” and telling them to check out College ACB, another anonymous gossip site for campuses.
But Ivester, the same man who allowed anonymous users to publicly tag young people in posts that claimed they had STDs, is on a mission to let everyone know he’s not a bad guy and he has a vision for a better Internet — by promoting his new app, Kindr.
Ivester gave an interview to Buzzfeed expressing regret for his Juicy Campus years, saying “It was really a negative experience for a lot of people, including myself. When I started it, I didn’t realize kind of how fundamentally different online gossip is from offline gossip. So when the site shut down and I had some time to reflect on it, I realized that I had been dealing with issues of cyberbullying before cyberbullying was even a term in our vernacular.”
Following the implosion of Juicy Campus, Ivester published a book called lol…OMG about cyberbullying, which is kind of like Dennis Rodman putting out a book about the humanitarian failures of North Korea, but sure.
And now Ivester is trying to make Kindr happen. It’s a nice, albeit hokey, idea: An app for sending compliments. You can choose from a variety of pre-written compliments (touching) and send them off to friends, ideally creating an entirely positive communication cycle and making someone feel good. The idea of creating a positive app that spreads goodwill is admirable — but the execution of Kindr is boring.
The problem with Kindr isn’t that it’s mean. The problem is, unlike Juicy Campus, it’s uncreative. And it’s worth mentioning that users might have trouble trusting the authenticity of an app that came from the creative mind of someone that created their college name-calling nightmare.
Ivester would be better off devoting his time to anti-cyber-bullying initiatives, because Kindr isn’t going to reduce cruelty (also, I have my doubts that it will catch on, because the compliments are so manufactured).Cyber-bullying and online cruelty is a complex issue, but one of the malignant factors about digital gossipmongering is the expectation some people have that they can say horrible things with impunity and expect both their right to speech and their anonymity protected — and that expectation was actively fostered by Juicy Campus. Introducing some lame greeting card app years later is a bad way to try to make the Internet a better place or atone for your formerly terrible self.