Peeple are inherently good10/14/2015
Connoisseurs of late 1990s television might remember a certain VH1 roundtable discussion show, “The List,” which basically laid the blueprint for modern Internet content. The concept of the show was simple enough: A host and four celebrity guests discuss and rank the quality of people, places and things based on personal enjoyment and bias. Sound familiar? Well, it should, because it seems one-third of the Internet has succumbed to the eyeball magnet of rankings.
No matter if you’re looking for the best restaurants in your area, the most reliable car manufacturer, the quality of a film coming out in theaters or the most affectionately consumed gummy bear, the Internet is ready and willing to deliver a composite score of the public’s opinion. The most popular of ranking sites is easily Yelp. Based on a five-star scale, Yelp gives visitors the low-down on any business or service one might be looking for customer reviews on. Hitting up a new pizza joint is all fine and good in your own neighborhood, but if you’re visiting a destination you are unfamiliar with, Yelp makes sure you don’t dine out at the pizza joint known for destroying patrons’ intestines.
Yelp is by no means alone in the ranking game. The list could go on for the entire length of this column, but believe me, every industry has a ranker. General business? Yelp. Travel? Travelocity. Repair services? Angie’s List. Consumer goods? Consumer Reports. Movies? Rotten Tomatoes. Social media influence? Klout. Human beings? Peeple — and this is where things have gone too far.
Over the last couple weeks, Peeple — a forthcoming ranking smartphone app — has created a mushroom cloud of cultural wrath. Billed as “Yelp for People,” the app gives users a five-star scale to score any human being on whatever criteria the user deems fitting. Intelligence, attractiveness, sense of humor, punctuality, benchpressing max — literally anything that might make you enjoy or dislike a person can be factored into a ranking of someone on Peeple. Naturally, people shamed this developer for having a horrible idea, one which would only amplify the ugliness that makes half the Internet seemingly unbearable. Everyone from The New York Times to Jon Oliver’s Last Week Tonight torched Peeple for inventing the perfect cyber-bullying tool. Granted, users must be 21 years of age, log in using his or her personal Facebook page, and rank others using his or her real name, but come on, this is the Internet — faking an identity is almost a prerequisite to logging online.
Peeple has seemingly succumbed to the backlash by shutting down its Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts, but I’m not exactly sure why. Tindr lets users callously search for dates based on physical appearance. HotOrNot.com has been running this insipid game for 15 years, and users can upload any photo they want to it anonymously. Is Peeple so much worse?
I blame our obsession with ranking for Peeple. Clicking over to Buzzfeed, Yahoo and YouTube, it will take you less than 10 seconds to find an arbitrary ranking of “Top 10 (insert inane interest here)” created by some random writer or bored editorial staff. These rankings mean nothing to you. Ranking the five best actress performance of 2014 is just as pointless as scoring the five worst features of your best friend. Your opinion on Julianne Moore versus Marion Cotillard has no impact on me, same as your opinion of your friends’ flaws won’t change them — just make you look awful in the process.
Personally, I hope Peeple doesn’t back down and launches its app. The negative reviewers will be the guiding light for who to stay away from. CV
Patrick Boberg is a central Iowa creative media specialist. Follow him on Twitter @PatBoBomb.