The Brief: YOLO: Honest Messaging is a free anonymous messaging app that works through Snapchat.

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DEEP DIVE

Features

YOLO: Honest Messaging allows users to connect to their Snapchats to then ask their friends for “honest” anonymous feedback. Although it is created by a third party developer, YOLO is integrated with Snapchat through the Snap Kit feature. Users can post a sticker to their Snapchat stories, asking for anonymous feedback. Their friends can then reply by typing into the box, sending an anonymous message.

YOLO/Apple App Store

Meteoric Rise

In the week since YOLO was released, it has become the #1 application in the United States in Apple’s App Store. At the time of writing, YOLO has received over 119,000 reviews with an average of 4.6 stars. The ease of downloading and adding this feature to Snapchat, as well as the promise of learning what your friends ‘really’ think of you make this application both enticing and dangerous.  Anonymous messaging apps like YOLO, which is named after an acronym for “you only live once,” are particularly popular among young people, who may participate in or fall victim to cyberbullying, hurtful commenting, and other drama on the app.

Risks Associated With Anonymous Messaging Apps

YOLO is the newest viral iteration of an anonymous messaging app, following in the footsteps of now-defunct Sarahah, Yik Yak, and Secret, as well as still-running apps like Lipsi and Tellonym. The main risk of bullying and harassment on these apps comes from the veil of anonymity that people can hide behind, using it to troll, verbally attack, or threaten people that they know IRL or have met online.

Some users have already reported that they’ve been bullied on YOLO, while others have noted that the app’s content filters can make messages unintelligible. In order for the app to remain viable, YOLO’s creators must balance its functionality with its safety features.

Safety, Privacy, And Age Restrictions

Officially, YOLO is for users aged 12 and up. However, because anonymous messaging can lead to bullying, it may not be suitable for teenagers. In order to mitigate the risks of apps like YOLO, it is important to have honest conversations with children and teens about internet safety and privacy, as well as cyberbullying and mental health.

Like many free apps, YOLO has access to some user information, which it gets when it syncs with Snapchat.

It has yet to be seen whether YOLO will continue to rise in popularity, or if its core feature – anonymous messaging – will be its downfall.