The 5 Stages of Internet Grief Over Peeple

Danielle Beurteaux

16 Feb 2012, Beijing, China --- Chinese woman text messaging on cell phone in grocery store --- Image by � Jade/Blend Images/CorbisIt’s rough out there for a startup. Just ask the people behind Peeple, a new site that lets people review other people. Once the news about this business became widely known, the feedback has been fast and mostly negative. A Washington Post article called the idea “inherently invasive,” “objectifying,” and “reductive.” Detractors pointed out that (initially – we’ll get to that) even people who don’t sign up for the site could be rated.

However, the backlash to the “Yelp for People” hasn’t killed of the idea – it’s still going live, albeit with some changes to its rules, like requiring permission to add someone (no one really seems to know the rules because they keep changing). Or maybe it’s a parody – but who can tell?

So, with our apologies to Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, here are the 5 Stages of Internet Response:

1. Denial: No one will use this, will they? Right?

One of Peeple’s co-founders told NYMag.com that they’ve already had “thousands of sign-ups.” Only you know who you are because maybe you’re not voicing your support on Twitter? Also, there’s no way (as of right now) to tell if they’re real people Peeple.

2. Anger: The backlash

The backlash to a product that hasn’t been solidified, tested, or released has been pretty epic, even in modern-life-on-the-internet terms.

And, irony of ironies, the people behind Peeple shut down their social media accounts. Seems they weren’t appreciative of the feedback and reviews they were receiving.

As was inevitable, there are also several parody sites, including Sheeple – tag: “Online Bullying Refined” – and Peeeple.

3. Bargaining: The impending botswarm (aka, gaming the system)

No matter what the system, someone’s out there looking for a way over, under, or around it. Review sites like Yelp have problems with fake reviews and bots. Expect Peeple bots, reputation “managers,” and scam artists to quickly pop up and find some previously unthought of way to profit from this app.

4. Depression: Saddened by how low can we go?

There are two types of people: those who rate, and those who do not. You likely think our obsession with rating every thing possible – the Grand Canyon? New York subway stations? Jury duty? – is either a great innovation or evidence of a deep psychological malaise of our age. Peeple is taking this propensity to its logical next step. Because there is nothing else left to rate.

5. Acceptance: Ignore it and maybe it will go away

We’ve actually walked this path before. Think back to personal review sites like Honestly and data review site Lulu. What happened to them? They changed their purpose – Honestly became a recruiting app; Lulu is still around, but changed its policies to so that males had to sign up for the site instead of working to get themselves removed post-rating.

In one way, it’s a genius idea. If someone writes a review of you and you want to respond, you can write a response under their review. You’re forced to engage with the site, which will increase its user numbers. (That could change, too; who knows what the finished product will look like.)

The lesson? Don’t engage. Just walk away.

Connectivity is not only about machines – it’s about real people, too. Watch the Video: The Social Impact of Hyperconnectivity to learn more.


Danielle Beurteaux

About Danielle Beurteaux

Danielle Beurteaux is a New York–based writer who covers business, technology, and philanthropy. Her work has appeared in The New York Times and on Popular Mechanics, CNN, and Institutional Investor's Alpha, among other outlets.

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