Have you guys heard about tbh? Not the acronym—which stands for "to be honest"—but the hot new poll-taking app? Two weeks ago, this thing hit the number one spot in the iTunes store thanks to its popularity among teens and tweens, and to the fact that it's been billed by various media outlets as the "nice" app.
But is it really? Let's unpack.
tbh (yup, it's all lowercase) is basically an anonymous truth-telling app similar to Yik Yak and Sarahah, where kids let each other know what they think about them. Think of it like the superlative section in your high school yearbook, where users vote in a series of polls on things like which one of their friends makes them laugh the hardest, which one they're most likely to still be in touch with in 10 years, and which one is most likely to end up on SNL.
Seems pretty harmless, right? And yes, the app is currently getting tons of props for giving kids a more positive experience than its predecessors, thanks to strict monitoring that keeps all questions from veering into negative or hurtful territory.
"Unlike other anonymous apps, all the feedback is positive," the company explains on its website. "We built tbh because we believe that social networks should make us feel better about ourselves—not worse."
We couldn't agree more. But kids are still kids. And so plenty of them are screenshotting the anonymous affirmations and then posting them on Instagram and Snapchat as a way to establish social status.
Let's take a look at the following poll for a sec and you'll see what I mean:
So Chad Simmons gets an alert that "a girl from 10th grade" chose him for best smile. You go, Chad Simmons! I mean, winning this thing probably makes him feel pretty good, right? So he takes a screenshot of the poll results and posts them on his Insta story because duh what good is winning if no one knows you took home the prize? Seems a little braggy and desperate but an otherwise relatively harmless ego boost—unless, of course, you happen to be Justin Andrews, Joseph Peters or Matthew McCarthy.
Sorry guys, a girl in 10th grade thinks your smiles basically suck.
Even worse, the app recently added a newsfeed function that enables users to see in real time when their friends have won a poll:
Sure, announcing that some 11th grade boy thinks Sarah Nicholson will be still hot when she's 80 may sound super-silly. But I bet for the 3 girls not chosen, being overlooked still stings. And what about the kids who are never selected for these things, but who now have to sit back and watch other kids' names show up as winners again and again? Not a big help in the confidence-building department, I'm guessing.
So while tbh is doing a solid job of protecting kids from cyberbullies and steering clear of the snarkfest over at Sarahah, it's always good to remember that teens are pretty much evil geniuses when it comes to inventing workarounds in order to jockey for position and do mean things to each other. Which is why I wouldn't say tbh is the nicest app ever invented—but I would definitely choose it as "Best step in the right direction."
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