Jane Bradley: Peeple app makes anyone a Mean Girl

It’s called Peeple, it lets others rate your personality and that Jane Bradley is dead against it… isn’t that just like her?

Lindsay Lohan, right, and friends in Mean Girls, the teen comedy which turned on the undeniable truth that young people can be truly awful to one another  if ony it were just a schoolgirl thing
Lindsay Lohan, right, and friends in Mean Girls, the teen comedy which turned on the undeniable truth that young people can be truly awful to one another  if ony it were just a schoolgirl thing
Lindsay Lohan, right, and friends in Mean Girls, the teen comedy which turned on the undeniable truth that young people can be truly awful to one another  if ony it were just a schoolgirl thing

There’s a scene in teen comedy Mean Girls which sees Lindsay Lohan’s Cady accused of creating a “slam book” – a collection of insults and hate messages about fellow pupils. The bitchy book, which is distributed amongst the student population, not only destroys the social lives of some of the pupils whose secrets are broadcast within it, but that of Cady too, who had nothing to do with the book, but loses friends as a result.

Fast forward 11 years and we are now all about to be subjected to the virtual slam book – with the launch of an app which allows people to “rate” other individuals.

Yes, you heard me correctly.

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The latest piece of insanity to come out of Silicon Valley is essentially a Trip Advisor for personalities. An Amazon reviews site, but for people, rather than goods.

And, unlike the Mean Girls version, this one – with the does-what-it-says-on-the-tin moniker of “Peeple” – would be available to everybody in the world. Potential employers, would-be girlfriends and boyfriends and new acquaintances will be able to see how you have been rated.

Landlords from whom you may wish to rent a flat; a small hotel owner deciding whether to welcome you as a guest; restaurants and bars which could refuse to take bookings from people who have been rated poorly.

Peeple,the brainchild of North American women Julia Cordray and Nicole McCullough, allows users to rate their friends, relations, colleagues and acquaintances, using a five star scheme.

Of course, we can guess how this will all play out.

Cheating boyfriend? One star. Girl holding a party everyone wants to go to? Five stars, natch. Boss who gave you the unsociable shifts? One star and a vitriolic write-up. It could be as simple as that.

The terrifying thing about Peeple is that even those who have not signed up for it can be rated. A user can set up a new profile for anybody they want to give a rating to – as long as they have an e-mail address for them.

Eek. Of course, there are safety nets in place. The founders claim that any negative reviews will be first emailed to the reviewee and they will be “encouraged” to solve the problem with the reviewer before publication.

Certain individuals have already been subjected to such public personal attacks.

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RatemyTeacher, set up with the aim of allowing children to have a go at their least favourite educators, became a bit of thing a decade or so ago.

Teachers I know have been called “dull”,“boring” and even “creepy”, while at the same time receiving ­ratings of “best teacher ever” from students who say they “love” their lessons. Can’t please all of the people all of the time, I suppose.

Thankfully, the profession seems to have chosen to generally ignore the site – apparently taking the attitude that it’s not too different to discussions in the school yard.

But this is a group of sensible adults, taking a view on something carried out by adolescents.

What is most worrying about Peeple is that will let the crazy little children jangle the keys to the kingdom. What by rights should be nothing more than yet another insane social media network for teenagers along the lines of AskFM or SnapChat could end up encroaching on the lives of grown-up people living in the real world.

Indeed, as I’m sure Arthur Miller would have agreed, Peeple is a recipe for vengeance inevitably writing the law.

Of course, Peeple’s founders claim they have a perfectly innocent reason for wanting to create this atrocity. You can, they say, already rate almost everything else in the world online.

Want to rent a holiday cottage? Check the reviews. Looking for a new kettle? Ditto. We can rate everything except, they say, people. If you are considering hiring a babysitter to look after your child, would you not want to know what other people thought about them?

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The fly in the ointment there is that, in a bid to seem legit, Peeple insists that users must be a minimum of 21, give their real name and connect via an established Facebook account.

In that case, the vast majority of those babysitters they’re talking about won’t be allowed to log on.

Peeple hopes that the accountability of their app, the fact that people will have to put their name to reviews, will stamp out the Mean Girls element.

But what they do not seem to have considered – or perhaps they don’t care – is that opinions on individuals are not black and white and comments without any context can be incredibly damaging.

In hit BBC drama Dr Foster the other night, the main character played by Suranne Jones has been suspended from her job because of a combination of accusations against her. One is an allegation which her superiors would have perhaps dismissed under other circumstances, but when combined with a string of disparaging online reviews about her work, it raises ­suspicions.

And that is how Peeple could be damaging: not necessarily as a one-off, but as part of a jigsaw degradation of a person’s character.

Much to the founders’ delight and most of the world’s horror, Peeple – which may yet turn out to be a hoax – has the potential to have power.

And, if they pull it off, the founders will have successfully accomplished what other social media sites before them have tried to do and only managed to a certain extent – turn functioning adults into warring schoolgirls.