Liar, Liar, Pants On Fire

The new TBH app prompts teenagers’ need for self validation


TBH became available to Liberty students in October 2017.

Ianne Salvosa, Reporter

“Did you download TBH?” is a phrase you’ve probably heard in the last month or so. Conceived in August 2017, this anonymous polling app allows students to vote on one of their friends who match the description the poll gives. From first glance, the thought of anonymously distributing labels to peers seems like trouble. But here’s the catch; it’s all positive.

When using the app, the user is given a description such as, “Too Lit to be Legit” or “Most Contagious Smile”, and four of their friends to choose from. The friend chosen then receives a notification that shows the compliment they’ve received along with the gender and grade of the person they received the compliment from. Additionally, for each compliment received, the user earns a gem, a way to show the number of compliments given to that person. An all positive compliment app may seem like what society needs in the midst of online hate and bullying, but this app can be twisted upside down.

Already feeding into teenagers’ addiction to phones and social media, TBH gives teens something that they can get elsewhere; their self worth. Within the first week of the app being available for Liberty students, many were buzzing about the compliments that they have received and how many they have gotten. Constantly checking their phone for a notification, teens have allowed themselves to become engulfed into the mirage of continuously being able to see what others think of them.

Self esteem is an important thing to possess, especially for teenagers, but esteem and worth are entirely different things. Self esteem is knowing that yourself as an individual is enough, shying away from self deprecation. Self worth is much like self esteem, but in the eyes of others. Like a freshly peeled apple, self worth is quick to rot. This so-called “dignity” is how you believe you are perceived.

A week or so after the app made its stance at Liberty, the compliments given on the app had an alternative effect. With the notifications repeatedly appearing, the praise had lost it’s effect. Getting compliments over and over had become redundant and the kind words of the comments had lost their charm. Receiving a compliment from your phone screen is in no way similar to getting a compliment from somebody face to face. When telling someone they have a beautiful smile, part of the genuity is telling them in person. When your screen lights up and you earn another gem, the sparkling words seem cheap.

Moreover, if there’s one thing all teen obsessions have in common, it’s that parents are not in support of it. For example, upon creating an account in the app, the user has to allow access to their location and their contacts. This immediate violation of privacy has parents worried that the app could be compromising the location of the users. According to the app, location access is needed to locate schools in the area. The user’s contacts are needed to find friends within the app. But all in all, parents knowing the whereabouts of their child being available to others have a right to be worried.

Furthermore, the gems users receive could also be taken down a different route. On the app, users can look into other user’s accounts and see information such as grade and gem count. When a user is looking at their own gem count, it could bring a feeling of self assurance knowing they have received that many compliments. On the contrary, the gems can also feed into a popularity contest. Instead of spreading around good vibes and warmth through the app like intended, users could be using it to see how favored they are compared to others. The gems give a visual of their public ego, big or small.

Although TBH may have many qualities that would make one wary to use it, it is an improvement compared to other anonymous apps. For example, Sarahah is another anonymous app created in 2016. Sarahah allows users to create comments on their peers without having to reveal their identity. The comments on the app have ranged from extremely positive compliments to aggressive, condescending insults. As a result, the app has raised flags all over the country for becoming a conduit for online bullying.

Ultimately, TBH is another prime example of how some things with good intentions end with bad outcomes. In the beginning, the warm and fuzzy feeling of getting a compliment was definitely present but ended with that feeling becoming an annoying presence. Teens’ self validation meter was overflowing and with that, the app died. But what will this mean for the future of anonymous apps? There’s no knowing when there will be a new app for teens to be obsessed about but the forest fire it will cause will probably be tamed quickly. To be honest, when fishing for compliments, it’s tough to see what will bite.