whisperWe all have secrets. And it can be unbelievably cathartic to unburden yourself of one you’ve been keeping—to confide in somebody, to just get it out there.

But does this same catharsis take place when you reveal your secret anonymously?

Maybe. Especially when you’re revealing your secret in a public forum, which is the idea behind mobile apps Whisper and Secret, which allow you to publicly and anonymously share anything you want with other app users.

In short, the apps took the nucleus of the idea behind PostSecret, an anonymous secret sharing forum that collects its Secret Art on a website and in books, and made it more technologically advanced and more instantly gratifying.

It works like this*:

Say you have a secret that you want out there and you want people to be able to see and comment on, to maybe let you know you’re not the only one. You fire up the app and begin typing out said secret. Say your secret is something like “Sometimes, late at night, I Dutch Oven myself.** And I like it. I like it a lot.”

The app will take your secret and suggest a photo for you to accompany it. When this guy I know posted his Dutch Oven secret, a map of the Netherlands was suggested. As this did not convey the message to this guy’s satisfaction, he went with the option of choosing his own picture, at which point he took a picture of his lower body underneath his comforter (see figure 1).

Fig. 1

Once you post, you’re given the benefit of receiving feedback on your secret—often of an empathetic or sympathetic nature—without people knowing who you really are. They can “heart” your post, which is the exact same as liking a Facebook status or favoriting a Tweet, they can reply to it, or they can send you an anonymous private message.

But like anything on the Internet these days, it’s a crapshoot. Some people use the app for legitimate therapeutic reasons (I assume), while other people just dick around on it (like Dutch Oven guy), and even others (probably) just completely make things up that have no foundation in reality.

The vast majority of the time, you can’t really tell which of the three categories a specific secret fits into.

It’s for this reason that this app shouldn’t be taken all that seriously. And it is. Which is a problem.

I was checking my Twitter feed for the millionth or so time the other day when I saw a Tweet from one of the 80 celebrity gossip news sources I follow saying that Gwyneth Paltrow is or was reportedly cheating on her husband, Coldplay frontman Chris Martin.

Like most rational human beings, I do not like Goop and would take a perverse pleasure in her ultimate demise. So I clicked on the story.

When I read it, I stopped caring about who Paltrow was banging, and started caring about how insane it was that it was being reported by multiple news sources that she may be having affair based simply on the fact that somebody had posted on Whisper that she was.

This is like using an anonymous source without a reporter or journalist even communicating with said anonymous source for vetting purposes. And that’s completely bonkers. I could go on there right now and say something like “Kanye West is actually really nice when you get to know him,” with a picture of Kanye West wearing one of those stupid masks he always has on, and it might be reported by the media, despite them having no idea from who or where the hell it has come from.

But it’s happening.

Chances are you will never have any desire or need to use Whisper or Secret, which is great.

But you should still be aware of it, in case people are whispering about you.

*For demonstrative purposes, I only tested out Whisper and not Secret. I don’t need one of these apps in my life, really, let alone two.

**A Dutch Oven is when you pass gas underneath the covers and pull the covers over an unsuspecting victim’s head, so that the entirety of their air supply will be farts.