Peeple: a new way for the internet to destroy your life

The app is essentially TripAdvisor... for humans

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The Independent Online

Here’s a fun game for TripAdvisor fans: search for the No 1 rated hotel in any given city and then trawl the site for the most negative review. Your mind will boggle at man’s capacity to complain.

The hotel currently rated top out of 446 in New York, for example, has a critique which devotes three paragraphs to one flight of stairs. “Not only are the stairs pitched at a sharp angle, but the distance between each stair is higher than typically found in one’s home or most public buildings.” 

Almost as much fun is scrolling right down to the lowest rated hotel, the one in 446th place, and finding reviews which tend to be almost poetic in their disappointment, with titles like “Cockroaches, steps, the closet and you”, “Bedbugs and Staff Lies” and “My suitcase disappeared!”.

The reality for most travellers is usually, happily, somewhere between these two extremes but TripAdvisor feeds on extreme reactions. It is, in many ways, the essence of the internet: lots of people going a bit over the top about something – sometimes in praise, more often critically – and venting their opinion, whether the world wants it or not and with very little thought to the human cost. 

We are all of us hotel inspectors now, not to mention school inspectors (RateMyTeachers.com), literary critics (GoodReads.com), Michelin judges (Yelp.com) and rock experts (iTunes). Go online and you can rank anything you like: your dinner; the article you’ve just read; or, if you’re really bored, the box your latest Amazon purchase came in. It is making power-hungry mini Simon Cowells of us all.

And now we can rank people. Or Peeple, to use the cutesy name of the app that appeared from nowhere this week, to make people on the internet even angrier than they were about a poky hotel room with papery walls, no trouser press and a view of the bins. 

Peeple – which sounds so dystopian it may yet prove itself to be a hoax, or a viral marketing campaign for a new sitcom – is essentially a TripAdvisor for humans. Using the app, you can give your acquaintances, friends, colleagues, lovers, ex-partners – anyone, as long as you have met them in person and have their mobile number stored in your phone – a star rating out of five under three categories: professional, personal and dating.

To join Peeple, if you must, you have to be aged 21 or over and in possession of an active Facebook account. You can’t post reviews anonymously; comments will be moderated and any negative reviews sent to the subject and held for 48 hours while he or she tries to “work things out” with the reviewer. There is also no way to opt-out; if someone chooses to review you, you’re rated online for ever more, festering like a one-star review of Sex and the City 2.

The idea, according to the founders, is to spread positivity (have they seen the internet?) and to help people to choose whom to hire, do business with or to date, whom to have as their landlord, housemate or child’s nanny, and so on. Human instinct and telling people what you think of them to their face is so Noughties. 

If the bullies don’t take it over with toxic trolling – as they surely will – the alternative is potentially worse: an endless stream of people posting self-congratulatory five-star reviews. The app will reportedly launch in November, although that seems unlikely given the legal stumbling blocks, and the fact that it cannot – surely – be real. 

But even if Peeple is a spoof, there is almost certainly someone sitting in a Silicon Valley penthouse working on a friendship app or an algorithm for calculating optimum human interaction. We are already accustomed to ranking people constantly and publicly, without a new app to help us. 

It used to be that we grew out of giving people marks out of 10 around the same time we grew out of playing hopscotch. No longer; approval ratings for our faces, our lives, our holidays, our jokes and our opinions are everywhere; you can measure them by how many likes on Facebook or hearts on Instagram you get, by the comments under your blogposts or eBay profile. You can rate the person who sold you a handbag online or the person who drove you home in a cab – and they can rate you right back. Like it or not, we are all already Peeple people.

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