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the revolutionary network Written and Designed By Thuy-Tien Le


To Sue Kefauver, who is currently bravely battling brain cancer.


AcknowledgemENts To begin with, I would like to thank my parents - Richard Lee and Phuong Nguyen - for loving me unconditionally and supporting me in everything I do ever since the day I was born, both financially and psychologically. I don’t think I would be the person I am today without them. Additionally, shoutout to my sister, Carolyn, for inspiring me to always give everything my all and accepting me for who I am these past ten years. Four for you, Carolyn, four for you. So to my parents and sister, you guys are the best. Second of all, I would like to thank my teachers at Freestyle Academy - Leo Florendo, Leslie Parkinson, Jason Greco, Matt Taylor, and Sue Kefauver - for opening my eyes to the world of digital arts and design. I wouldn’t be where I am today and more importantly, have this book published, without these amazing people. So to the teachers, you guys are the greatest. I also want to thank everyone at Wislr for being so supportive of me in terms of this project and helping me in all the ways they can to make this possible. You guys are the chillest. Most importantly, I would like to give a shoutout to my homie, Nastia Garachtchenko, for offering me motivation to finish this book, helping me design this book, and revising my research paper for me. I don’t think this project would be possible if it weren’t for her. So Nastia, if you are reading this, thank you for being amazing and remember that you’re #beautiful. Finally, I would like to thank the rest of my friends, especially Brittaney Chang and Katheline Do, for being there for me as a shoulder to cry on in those times when I’m freaking out about the approaching deadlines. You guys are the swaggiest.


Table of Contents

Foreword

...6

Introduction

...10

Chapter 1: Social Networking and Raindrops

...14

Chapter 2: Lions and Catfishes

...28

Chapter 3: The Knight in Shining Armor

...40

Conclusion

...48

Works Cited

...50


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Dear Readers, For a long period of time in my childhood, I never fathomed what was so interesting about the Internet. Sure, I knew what it was, but to the understanding of my nine-year-old self, it was nothing more than a research tool for various school assignments. Granted, the reason for this was because my parents never really encouraged online gaming or communication over the web, so naturally I didn’t know that such services existed. In the summer of 2006, I was stuck at my grandma’s house in Los Angeles with my cousin, Christine, and needless to say, we were both bored out of our minds. Being older and therefore wiser, Christine foreshadowed the inevitable boredom and brought her laptop to keep us entertained. That day, Christine introduced me to the world of YouTube videos and the realm of Club Penguin, a virtual world where players interact with each other through penguin avatars. I can’t remember if we did anything else that day, but I do recall my amazement in being exposed to the usefulness of the Internet for the very first time. To this day, I, like many other teenagers, frequent the Internet in my free time for a multitude of reasons, whether it be for minor research for a school assignment or even to look up the definitions to slang terms that I’m not cool enough to understand. Over the past few years, the parameters of the Internet have widened to accommodate the needs of my teenage life. The Internet, since then, has provided me with the advantageous means of communication. Online communication was introduced and rose to popularity a couple of years after the public debut of the Internet. It all began when email was starting to make an appearance in the way people communicated and it was a large achievement for the Internet because it was one of the first creations that allowed people to be bridged. Over the years, countless companies have taken up the challenge of connecting people around the world by introducing social media websites like Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, and Tumblr. Admittedly, not all of these sites have the same functions, but it is obvious that the sole purpose of them is to offer a new way of communication between people.


When I began working on my book on social media platforms, I did so because the way that people connect has always been something that was interesting to me, especially in this decade we live in where most interactions are held online. Along the way, I’ve noticed that the Internet is, and never was, the innocent and safe place I once thought it was. Though good in essence, social media platforms have dangers of their own when people take advantage of the faceless communication methods it provides and use it to harm others through cyberbullying and scams. Upon the realization of that fact, I took it upon myself to embark on an adventure to find the safest social media platform available for high school students. After several years of trying various sites and being disappointed by what they had to offer, I was invited to come work at Wislr, a small startup social media company based in Palo Alto, California, by sheer luck. After beta-testing their network and helping them refine it, I am proud to say that have finally found The One. - Thuy-Tien Le, 2014

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THE TEAM Mandeep Dhillon Co-Founder, CEO

Raj Singh Tut Co-Founder

Rishi Mallik Co-Founder

Ash Bhat Co-Founder

Kabir Mahal Mobile Development

Zoya Singh Product Development

Micah McGraw Back-end Engineer

Collin Hartigan Front-end Developer and Designer

Julia Onken Product Development

Albert Li Android Engineer

Naoya Kanai Product Development

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Introduction


I

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magine for a moment that you are a high school student. You are getting ready to start your first day at a school located 600 miles south of the city you’ve lived in for your whole life. Having just moved to the neighborhood, you know no one at your new school. Wait, that’s a lie. You know the guy that lives next door, but he thinks you’re weird. He’s heard you squawking the lyrics to Disney’s “Let It Go” at the top of your lungs at around two in the morning. Not the best first impression if you ask me.

You feel forlorn at your new school as you observe the majority of the student body congealing into small groups during break. You want to reach out to someone, but unfortunately, it seems like everyone already has a friend. How in the world are you ever going to connect with these people? We are currently residing in the decade in which the Internet plays an essential component in our daily lives. Among the integral roles that the Internet plays in our lives, communication is one of the

most important. The web connects a large part of the world; thus, communication is something that can be effortlessly achieved by Internet users worldwide. One of the purposes that the Internet is most known for is social media, which makes it simple for people on opposite ends of the globe to connect with each other through a simple click of a button. To make it even more accessible, social media can now be accessed by smartphones through social networking applications. Among the most popular social networking applications are Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and YouTube. These popular platforms are useful for interacting with people from all around the globe. However, there are many dangers surrounding them such as Internet predators or false identities. Additionally, in the situation above, these platforms won’t prove to be helpful. The platforms need a person’s name, username, or URL in order to find people on social media and connect with them. This renders the application useless if you are searching for classmates on the Internet after your first day. Let’s


be honest, it’s your first day; unless you are a god amongst mankind, it’s doubtful that you will leave campus today with anyone’s contact information. Wouldn’t it be great if there were an application made to connect high school students? Wislr, a social media startup based in Palo Alto, has asked that same question multiple times already. The answer that Wislr came up with is a private mobile application for high school students only. The application specializes in social

polling, allowing students to post questions and receive answers from other users. The network needs name, grade, and phone number verification to maintain the reputation of being a platform for high school students only. This allows student opinions and peer-to-peer communication without the threat of internet predators. Previous updates to the application allow users to send “hearts” and communicate anonymously with other students. Ideally, this application provides

a safe environment for students to form a closer-knit community and tear down social stereotypes. Returning to the aforementioned situation, it doesn’t seem as bad anymore. With the Wislr app at your side, if you play your cards right, you will be able to make tons of new friends within your new high school community. By the end of the week, you won’t stand out as a lonely wallflower anymore; perhaps you’ll even bloom into a social butterfly.

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Chapter One: Social Networks and Raindrops


E

nvision now that you are a raindrop. You are not a student beginning her first day at a new school anymore; you are a raindrop. Why, you ask? Why not? The average human body is made up of over 50% water, so hypothetically, we can almost identify with being a raindrop, which, if you are wondering, is 100% water. Before your life as a raindrop, you were part of something bigger, like a

lake. However, the heat from the sun causes the water from the lake to heat up and evaporate, whisking you and all your other water vapor friends up into the air, forming clouds. In the air, you and y o u r little water vapor friends party hard and soon, the party becomes so extreme that the air can’t handle it anymore. Pretty soon, you realize that you are falling. You are now a raindrop and with a start, you realize that you don’t really mind falling, as long as you are not alone and raindrops, as you know,

are never alone (When Five Fell). You watch as you and your other raindrop friends fall towards the city below. The buildings of the city gets closer and shortly you begin to make out the human figures dancing in the streets, holding onto their loved ones as they struggle to have their first kiss in the rain. Romantic, eh?

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On impact, you are squashed into a small puddle of water. Your other raindrop friends land around you and you reach out your hydrogen bonded arms to give your surrounding friends a hug. Your friends hug those around them and in due time, all the hugs form a huge puddle of water. Human social networks operate in the very same way. For instance, take a teenage girl living

in Anytown, USA. Let’s call her Stacy. You see, ever since the day Stacy was born, she has been interacting with lots of other people through places such as her school, work, neighborhood, parties, you name it all. According to a study conducted by Robin Dunbar, a celebrated British evolutionary psychologist and special in primate behavior, he theorized that “among primates, social group size appears to be limited by the size of the species’ neocortex” and that “the size of human social networks appear to be limited...to a value of around 150 [people]” (Grace). That means that in a human’s lifetime, he or she will only be able

to develop a meaningful connection and grow close to around 150 other people around the world. If this theory holds true, that means that Stacy’s social network consists of 150 members. However, the members in her networks also have networks of their own. Let’s say, George, a member of Stacy’s network also knows 150 people. These

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"In the vast fabric of humanity, each person is connected to her friends, family, coworkers, and neighbors, but these people are in turn connected to their friends, family coworkers, and neighbors, and so on endlessly into the distance, until everyone on earth is connected (pretty much) to everyone else, one way or another." - Nicholas A. Christakis, author of connected

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150 people doesn’t necessarily have to be the same people from Stacy’s network. Members in George’s network also know 150 people; members in their networks know another 150 people, and so on. Nicholas A. Christakis tells us through his book on social networks, Connected: In the vast fabric of humanity, each person is connected to [her] friends, family, coworkers, and neighbors, but these people are in turn connected to their friends, family coworkers, and neighbors, and so on endlessly into the distance, until everyone on earth is connected (pretty much) to everyone else, one way or another. (19) Pretty soon, it is easily seen that the world is full of networks and most of them are interconnected. Similar to the raindrops, the human social network all blend together to form a huge network and oddly enough, the Internet seems to be the super glue that helps hold all of those networks together. The Internet was originally a project funded by the government in the 1970’s for military usage. However, somewhere along the way, someone saw its potential

to do more in the world and so it was made available to the public in the 1990’s. Since then, the Internet has rapidly grown to become the world wide network it is today. As of June 2012, more than two billion people - over a third of the world’s population - have used the services of the Internet, which is approximately a hundred times more than the amount of people using it in 1995 (“Internet Users in the World”). Without the Internet, it would be difficult for many people to keep in contact with each other and communicate. Let’s be real here: some human beings are very hard to interact with in real life. In an interview with Michelle Deng, a student at Los Altos High School, she states that she “[finds] it difficult to interact with some students in [her] school, but

[it’s] not [only] just limited to [the] students in [her] school [because it includes] people anywhere [and] not everyone is easy to get along with” (Deng). This feeling of shyness has probably been felt by all of us at one point or another in our lives. TeensHealth, a helpful website where teenagers can obtain doctor-approved information, explains that the reason teenagers feel shy is because “they’re not sure how to act, what will happen, how others will react, or when all eyes

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are on them [in unfamiliar circumstances]”. People are less likely to feel shy when they are among familiar people, but the problem is, at some point in our lives, we will have to interact with someone we don’t know. This interaction can go about two ways: either you hit it off with this person and become comfortable immediately or the more likely option, it’s super awkward for both of you. The Internet takes away that social anxiety and awkwardness

because it offers a method of communication that doesn’t involve having an actual face-to-face conversation with another person. It also gives people a way to discover what mutual interests they have with others before actually initiating a connection. Nicholas A. Christakis offers insight on these relationships through his book, Connected: Humans deliberately make and remake their social networks all the time. The primary example of this is homophily, the conscious or unconscious tendency to associate with people who resemble us (the word literally means ‘love of being alike’). Whether it’s Hells Angels or Jehovah’s Witnesses, drug addicts or coffee drinkers, Democrats or Republicans, stamp collectors or bungee jumpers, the truth is that

we seek out those people who share our interests, histories, and dreams. Bird of a feather flock together. (17) Christakis is saying that people with mutual interests tend to have a better and more likely chance of connecting than two people who lay on opposite sides of a spectrum. This observation proves to be true with many events that happen in our daily lives. For example, imagine that you are at Starbucks and it just so happens to be crowded, so you are stuck in a long line waiting to get your drink. The two people in front of you in the line decide to turn around and strike on a conversation with you to kill time while you all wait to purchase your drinks. The first person, let’s call her Sarah, reveals that she keeps up with the same TV shows that you enjoy. Even better, she happens to listen to the same bands with you too. The second person however, let’s call him John, has no mutual interests with you whatsoever. If you were to pick between Sarah and John for whom to continue interacting with after the Starbucks meeting, you would probably pick Sarah. Why?

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It’ll most likely be because Sarah shares the same interests with you. The common interests between you and Sarah provide conversation topics that you two can talk about and thus, become closer, whereas with John, who you share no interests with, won’t have as many conversation topics to talk about. Additionally, the Internet helps with preserving relationships with people that we don’t necessarily interact with on a day-to-day basis in real life. Rishi Mallik, one of the founders at Wislr, does a very good job of summarizing how we categorize our relationships in real life: There’s a couple of subsets of people that you interact with. One is like your enclosed group of family. These are the people that are on your speed dial, the people that you are talking with consistently, [and can include] family, significant others, and very close friends. Then there’s another subset of your outer group of friends and family so this may be your cousins, your friends at school, and all your friends at work…Then there’s a third section which is probably the largest group

which [includes] acquaintances, distant friends, or friends in different locations. (Mallik) Without the Internet, in most cases, we end up drifting away from people in the second or third subset because they are part of the group of people that we don’t interact with on a day-to-day basis. The main reason for it is because it’s difficult to keep in touch with them compared to the first subset, which is occupied with the people that we communicate with the most. Over time, these people in the second or third subsets end up replacing us with new friends, those whom they can interact with on a day-to-day basis. I remember back when I was younger, less dependent on the Internet, and ready to head off onto the next biggest adventure of my life, middle school. Since there were two middle schools located around the area where I lived, it was inevitable that a lot of my friends would end

up going to the other middle school while I went to this one. Knowing that, a lot of my friends at the time made promises that we would all hang out every month and keep in touch. It seemed doable at the time because none of us were actually moving away and our new schools were within ten miles of each other. However, as time droned on, most of us became too busy with our schedules to find the time to spend with each other and after a period of time, our interactions dimmed down to a brief “hello” when we

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passed by each other in downtown or popular food joints. Over time, interests change and people find new friends to invest their time into. A couple of my old friends found passion in dancing and now, interact with others who similarly like dancing. Other friends found passion in leadership and resorted to becoming friends with those in the Speech and Debate team or class council. As time goes on, whatever previous relationships we had before faded

away into distinct memories that we think of every now and then and we had to accept that because we didn’t know of any other way to hold onto these relationships. Fortunately we all grew up and were introduced to the Internet and more importantly, social media. If my friend and I had known about social media during our transition from grade school to junior high, then maybe our old friendships would’ve been preserved because social media provides a way for people to connect without having the burden of scheduling a time. Rishi Mallik, one of the founders of Wislr, says: Before, with the tools that we had, it was very difficult to keep in contact with each one of [subsets because] the way that you communicate with each one of them is very different. Those that are closest to you, you

speak, chat, and share with much more often and those that are farther away from you, so you don’t have as much of interaction. (Mallik) Now with the addition of social media, it is much more simple to connect with a friend that perhaps, lives farther away. Michelle Deng, a high school student, states, “Social media is useful for communicating with people I don’t see 24/7, which is pretty much everyone. So anyone I don’t live with, it’s useful for communicating with them.” She brings to light of how it is simple to communicate with people over the web and thus, keep up relationships. Back when social media didn’t exist, it was very difficult to manage and keep up with the people in our social networks, but now, it is a lot simpler. The Internet proves to be a very wonderful addition to our daily lives, however, it is not as benevolent as many seem to believe. We just have to look past its seemingly virtuous facade.

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ChapteR Two: Lions and catfishes


L

ions are, and will always be, predatory animals; there’s no denying it. In their natural environment of sub-Saharan Africa, they roam around in search of weaker animals like zebras and buffalos to prey on. Being one of the strongest animals in their habitat, they are classified as one of the higher animals on the food chain. If they play their cards right, they are sure to hunt down at least one animal before the end of the day to fuel their existence. Life’s pretty good for a lion. In a sense, the predatory nature of lions is like that of predators that roam the Internet. When we think of the Internet, we tend to appreciate all the positive aspects that it can bring us. It’s true that the Internet can be extremely useful, but only in an ideal world can something be entirely good. The problem is, we don’t live in a perfect world. Like all things in our reality, the Internet has its virtues and vices. Its virtues include providing a simple way to communicate with peers, countless forms of entertainment, or even music to suit all sorts of moods. On the other hand, it is a very dangerous place

filled with predators. Internet predators are on top of the Internet food chain and they feed on prey like gullible children and clueless teenagers using tactics like cyberbullying and scams. One of the tactics that Internet predators employ to harm users is cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is a form of bullying that takes place using electronic technology. Electronic technology can include devices such as cell phones, computers, and tablets as well as communication tools including social media sites, text messages, chats, and websites (“What is Cyberbullying”). Cyberbullying has been around the Internet since its conception and the main reason why it exists is because computers and phone screens offer an imaginable form of protection for predators. Most people are often discouraged to do things like bullying in real life because real life means that they have to engage in face to face communication. However, on the Internet, it’s a whole different story. People are more likely to say and do things they normally wouldn’t because they are hidden behind a

computer screen, safe in the confines of their own bedroom. Amanda Todd is someone who has been slammed into the harsh realities of the Internet through cyberbullying. When she was in seventh grade, Amanda used to go on sites like Omegle and Chatroulette to connect and video chat

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with strangers. In one event, she was convinced by a stranger to lift up her shirt and reveal her breasts on camera. Unfortunately, this stranger took screenshots of Amanda’s nude chest and blackmailed her with threats to expose these pictures on the Internet unless she gave him a “show”. Amanda complied with his request and the stranger kept his word, at least for the time being. Fast forward two years later: Amanda received a notification from the police that her topless pictures were circulating the Internet. She was horrified and started to experience anxiety and depression. This led her to start using drugs and alcohol as a way to escape the harsh reality that is now her life. In the course of the couple months after her pictures were leaked, Amanda constantly moved from school to school. She wanted a fresh start in a place where no one knew about her previous mistakes. Her perpetual moving deprived Amanda of any friends, so she was grateful when one of her old guy friends contacted her. However, this friend just wanted to take advantage of her, and he invited her over to his

house and had sex with her while his girlfriend was on holiday. When his girlfriend found out, she and a crowd of others physically attacked Amanda at school. Following the attack, Amanda attempted suicide for the first time by drinking bleach. Fortunately, she survived after being rushed to the hospital to get her stomach pumped. Amanda returned from the hospital to discover that instead of understanding and helpful messages, her Facebook was filled with abusive messages regarding her failed suicide attempt. Amanda’s family soon moved again to another city to give Amanda a fresh start, but that ultimately failed when her topless pictures were resurfaced at her new school. This caused the student body to look at Amanda in a degrading way because they thought she was just a slut. By this point, Amanda’s mental state was quickly deteriorating and despite taking her prescribed anti-depressants and receiving counseling, she overdosed on drugs and was hospitalized for

two days. Instead of understanding her situation and comforting her, her schoolmates continued on with teasing her for her low grades, which were the result of her learning disability, and the large amount of time she spent in the hospital to treat her severe depression. On September 7, 2012, Amanda posted a video on Youtube titled “My story: Struggling, bullying, suicide, and self harm”, where she used multiple flashcards to silently tell her story of being bullied. At the end of the

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"We stem from a root planted in the belief that we are not what we were called. We are not abandoned cars stalled out and sitting empty on a highway and if in some way we are, don't worry, we only got out to walk and get gas." - Shane Koyczan, writer of To this day

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video, she remarked that she “has nobody” and “needed] someone [to be her friend]” (My Story: Struggling, Bullying, Suicide, and Self Harm). Sadly, a month after the video was posted, on October 10, 2012, Amanda Todd committed suicide and was found hanged in her own home. Amanda Todd’s story is a paragon of the extremes an individual faces who has been deeply affected by cyberbullying. Sure, she

made a couple of mistakes here and there, like the decision to show her breasts to a complete stranger, the person at blame here is the individual that made that decision to leak the topless pictures onto the Internet, where Amanda’s schoolmates can find them and hold it against her. To make matters worse, this stranger even went as far as making sure that the pictures are surfaced at every school Amanda attended so that she can never achieve her fresh start. This cruel act of stalking and cyberbullying resulted in an unjust death of a girl who like most of us, made regrettable mistakes. Unfortunately, Amanda Todd isn’t the only teenager to have committed suicide or fell into deep depression as a result of cyberbullying. There are countless other cases of a similar story happening to other kids on every social media network imagined. Although some of these stories aren’t very publicized, like the suicide of Amanda Todd, people still fail to realize that cyberbullying is an actually problem regarding social media. This is one of the reasons why the Internet and social media is so dangerous.

In addition to cyberbullying, the Internet is also filled with scams. Doubtful? Just check your email and look in the spam folder. What do you see? Dozens of emails from sketchy organizations offering money or free items, deals that sound too good to be true. Sites like Craigslist and eBay are made for the purpose of being an online marketplace where users can buy and sell things. However, though most users are honest with their sales, a handful of them are just there hoping to make some money off of unsuspecting people. For example, in July of 2013 in Houston, Texas, nineteen-yearold Dylan Balderston is someone who fell victim to a scam on Craigslist. Dylan sells “high-dollar [rare] athletic shoes” in his spare time as a way to make some extra dollars here and there (“Craigslist Seller Falls Victim to Counterfeit Money Scam”). He does this by waiting in lines to hoard limited brand athletic shoes so that he can individually sell them back later for more than double the original price, allowing him to make a huge profit. However, on one Saturday, Dylan waited

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in line to buy some limited pairs of shoes that were being released that night for “$170 a pop”. Not long after attaining the shoes and posting the ad on Craigslist, Dylan was contacted by someone who was interested in buying three pairs for $750. The man had a trustworthy profile and appeared to be a legitimate buyer, so Dylan agreed to sell the man the three pairs of shoes in a busy parking lot of a nearby mall. However, after the exchange was made, Dylan realized that the man scammed him by giving him counterfeit money to pay for the shoes. Unfortunately for Dylan, the man got away before Dylan realized that he was given counterfeit money for the shoes and that he had just gotten scammed. This is just one instance of scams on the Internet affecting people. There are many other methods that allow someone to scam another person through the Internet. These methods can range from phishing, which is when someone makes a fake sign-in page to trick others into releasing their account information, to fake companies releasing sweet offers, hoping to gain a couple

bucks here or there from gullible users. As mentioned earlier, the reason why so many atrocious things happen on the Internet is because the Internet offers the options to hide behind a computer screen and no one will ever connect you to the disdainful comment you left on someone’s profile picture. Many sites like Ask.fm and Tumblr allow the option to remain completely anonymous, which results in many people being a lot nastier and more confident in sending hate to another useful. Although other social media sites like Facebook and Twitter require an actual identity to be a member, it is very easy to create a “catfish” account to hide behind. Urban dictionary, a site that defines popular slang terms, defines a “catfish” as someone who pretends to be someone they’re not using social media to create false identities (“Catfish”). The Internet is full of “catfishes” and though most

“catfishes” are easy to out, a small amount of them are so cleverly built that it is almost impossible to figure out that they are fake accounts. Last year, a good friend of mine, Isabelle, met a boy named Lucas online. Names have been changed in this retelling to protect identities. She was simply browsing through Facebook one day when she received a message from a boy who claims to live halfway across the country. He told her that she was beautiful and being the suckler for compliments she is, she

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blushed and continued the conversation with him. His charming way of talking, compliments, and attractive profile pictures encouraged her all the more to add Lucas on Facebook. Lucas seemed like the perfect guy and pretty soon, Isabella’s relationship with Lucas fostered into something more than online friends; they were practically a couple. Lucas made Isabella really happy and most of us were happy for Isabella because it seemed like she found

the one. However, after a few months of dating Lucas, Isabelle realized that there was something fishy about Lucas. She noticed that Lucas seemed to be afraid to video chat with her or even send her any pictures of him. The only pictures she had of him were the ones that existed on his Facebook albums. He hardly ever gets tagged in anyone else’s pictures. Lucas also started to pressure her into sending him nude pictures, which she was hesitant to do. Things started going downhill when Lucas’s profile picture showed up in a Google Image Search of another boy named Maxwell. Isabelle contacted her long distance friends who happen to go to the same high school that Lucas listed on his Facebook profile claims to have not found him in the yearbook. Searching the school’s football pictures, she realized that Lucas was not on the football team as he had claimed. This newly discovered information confused Isabelle and she couldn’t grasp why a guy as charming as Lucas would lie about so much. As it turns out, Lucas was indeed a “catfish” and sadly for her, he had been

successful in conquering her emotions and ultimately, breaking her heart. Fortunately for her, she was able to find out who Lucas really was before she did anything stupid like sending him nude pictures. Though “catfishes” seem harmless at first glance, they have actually been proved to be pretty malicious. In Isabelle’s story, not only did Lucas deceive Isabelle’s emotions, he also violated her trust. Isabelle isn’t the only one who has been tricked by a “catfish,” and many others weren’t as fortunate as Isabelle to have found out that the “catfish” was a “catfish” all along before doing anything stupid. In hindsight, the Internet and social media sites aren’t safe places. Despite how safe or smart we think we are while browsing the Internet, online predators are also advancing their techniques of deception and it is only a matter of time before one of us falls for one of their traps. We can only hope that someday, a knight in shining armor will come along and rescue us from the dangers of the lions and catfishes. Fortunately for us, Wislr’s here. 39


ChapteR Three: THE KNIGHT IN SHINING ARMOR


O Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo?” Juliet cries as she awaits the arrival of her knight in shining armor. However, there’s a reason why the popular Shakespeare play, Romeo and Juliet, is classified as a tragedy and not a fairytale. This is because 1. Romeo is not a knight in shining armor, and 2. he didn’t arrive in time to save his beloved “princess”. If you ignore those two facts and attempt to forgo the memories of awkwardly performing the drama freshman year of high school, Romeo and Juliet would actually be a pretty cute play. The cliche story of boy meets girl and how the boy whisks the girl away to save her from the harsh realities of the world never fails to bring an audience to tears. Romeo and Juliet is similar to the one of how Wislr came to whisk high school students away from the harsh realities of the Internet and social media, except in this story, “Romeo” is a lot more punctual and comes in time to prevent the tragic ending. Who is this Wislr character though? When does he come into the story and why? Does he play

a big part in it? Is he good? Is he safe? How does he save the princess? To answer your question, Wislr is a social media startup located in Palo Alto. The goal of the startup is to create an app specially designed for high school students to interact with each other. In an interview with Rishi Mallik, one of the founders at Wislr, he explains: High school students need their own social network because it’s a very very active demographic, especially when it comes to communicating. They are growing up in the day and age where they have connected devices with them all the time and a lot of their communications are no longer face-to-face, [but] happening through social media. A lot of the social media tools that are out there today have been designed for a different demographic and are being adopted by high school students

instead of being designed for high school students. (Mallik) He goes on to explain that the number of high school students possessing smartphones have been increasing steadily over the past few years, but at the same time, the usage of the popular social apps among students are decreasing because it’s no longer a contextual network for them. Apparently, the average age of an active user on Facebook is around 40 years old, so “it’s no longer a network that really supports the life and behavior of a 43


high school student” (Mallik). The same logic can be used for the other social media networks that are occupying the Internet at the moment, not just for Facebook. Though lots of high school students do have an account on popular social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr, it is not only limited to just high school students. These sites include many other adults and at times, the presence of adults interferes with allowing high school students a space where they can

be themselves. At Wislr, since they’ve noticed that “high schools have connected devices with them [at all times and] the fact that they no longer have an authentic network for themselves” (Mallik), they want to help high school students in that aspect. Wislr, in its entirety, is currently one of the safest networks out there to join. The team at Wislr puts in extra effort to address the cyberbullying problems that have “caused many other networks out there to completely fail” (Mallik). They have incorporated many monitoring techniques to ensure that it remains a fun and safe network. For example, Wislr has a program in its code that can scan the posts in its network for anything that might relate to cyberbullying. Once the program does find something or some-

one that’s creating behavior that can be identified as cyberbullying, they are immediately given a warning. However, if they continue the behavior, Wislr bans them out of the application and in order for them to get back into the network, they will have to donate $5 to the antibullying campaign. This ensures that cyberbullying or any other kind of discriminating actions will not be tolerated within the network and maintain a fun atmosphere for everyone involved. Though Wislr does manage the posts in the network, it only does it through programs and not by the team because they believe that it should be a high school student only network, and it should provide a place where students “can still be rowdy [and] funny” (Mallik). Another danger discussed in the previous chapter that haunts other social media networks on the Internet is the use of “catfish” accounts, which are profiles managed by people who aren’t who they claim to be. In Wislr, it is impossible to create a “catfish” account because of the multiple-step verification process it utilizes to verify

45


that high school students are, in fact, high school students. To begin with, in order to join the network, the student must have an authenticated phone number and that makes sure that “it’s not anybody hacking in from a computer or one user signing in with multiple accounts; it’s one account per phone” (Mallik). Secondly, if the student grants Wislr location services, Wislr can check if the student is in the district that he claims he goes to school in. If location services aren’t granted, Wislr uses public resources like the yearbook to make sure that the student is actually enrolled in the school. If the yearbook method doesn’t work, Wislr has other identification methods like asking the student to scan his ID card with the camera on the back of his phone to authenticate that he is actually a student. If the student decides to connect his other social networks like Facebook, Wislr can use the education history from the Facebook profile to determine if the student actually goes to the school in question. Finally, Wislr allows “stringent reporting as well, so if multiple people report that a user is not a student, then [the

team] will review [the] case and determine whether or not [the user is] actually a student” (Mallik). This unique verification process allows Wislr to ensure that the network is only occupied by high school students. Wislr is also working on adding additional sets of features to add to its initial application. Recently, it launched Fess, an application that allows high school students to anonymously post confessions to other students around the area. Students on Fess have completely anonymous accounts and can interact with other students anonymously. Wislr is currently developing Chapp, an application that will allow students to anonymously chat with each other

and then if they want, reveal who their identities are once they are at a comfortable stage in the conversation. Chapp, once it is launched will help undermine stereotypes. At the end of the day, Wislr manages to come up with a plan to save high school students from the dangers of other social media applications on the Internet.

47


Conclusion


When the dangers of the Internet are exposed to us, we are faced with many questions. Why does cyberbullying exist? Why do scams exist? Why can’t people live in peace and harmony with each other rather than resorting to malice? To answer these questions, we would have to question the basis of human nature. When we do realize a vague answer to the aforementioned questions, we will also realize that it is just simply how we are as people. In a perfect world, maybe we can all live at peace with each other, but unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world and there will always exist feelings of superiority, discrimination, and the such. That is when we can come to the conclusion that the Internet will never be a safe place. Since the Internet will never be a safe place, more questions arise for us to answer. What should we use then? Why are we using it? Is it safe for us? Will it help us for in a positive way? The answer to all of those questions lies in Wislr. Wislr, the startup company in downtown Palo Alto, holds a lot of potential to build an app, or a series of apps that can prove to be very beneficial to the high school demographic. Currently of right now, Wislr is still in its developmental phase, but eventually, it will be released with more features. Julian Foley, a senior at Los Altos High School, describes that “Wislr has helped him feel more part of the school than ever before because it offers a whole bunch of features that allows [him] to interact with other students and meet new people among [his] school”. If Wislr is able to help Julian connect with fellow schoolmates better than before, than it can probably help a whole lot of other students connect in the same way. The only question that remains is: why are we not using it yet? Wislr should be THE network that high school students pick up and in retrospect, it answers all of our questions and benefits students. We just have to give it a try.


works cited


Boyse, Kyla. “University of Michigan Health System.” Internet Safety: Your Child. University of Michigan Health System, Aug. 2011. Web. 11 Mar. 2014. “Catfish.” Urban Dictionary. Urban Dictionary, 22 July 2010. Web. 10 Mar. 2014. Christakis, Nicholas A., and James H. Fowler. Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives. New York: Little, Brown and, 2009. Print. “Craigslist Seller Falls Victim to Counterfeit Money Scam.” ABC7 News. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Apr. 2014. Dean, Michelle. “The Story of Amanda Todd.” The New Yorker. The New Yorker, 18 Oct. 2012. Web. 11 Mar. 2014. Deng, Michelle. “Interview with Wislr Application User.” Personal interview. 7 Mar. 2014. Foley, Julian. “Interview with Wislr Application User.” Personal interview. 9 Mar. 2014. Grace, George W. “Reflections On the Evolution of Language.” Reflections On the Evolution of Language. University of Hawaii, 18 Oct. 2003. Web. 11 Mar. 2014. “Internet Users in the World.” Internet World Stats: Usage and Population Statistics. Miniwatts Marketing Group, n.d. Web. 19 Mar. 2014. Mallik, Rishi. “Interview with a Wislr Employee.” Personal interview. 7 Mar. 2014. “Shyness.” TeensHealth. The Nemours Foundation, n.d. Web. 30 Mar. 2014. Singh, Zoya. “Interview with a Wislr Employee.” Personal interview. 7 Mar. 2014. My Story: Struggling, Bullying, Suicide, and Self Harm. By Amanda Todd. Perf. Amanda Todd. My Story: Struggling, Bullying, Suicide, and Self Harm. YouTube, 7 Sept. 2012. Web. 19 Mar. 2014. “What Is Cyberbullying.” Stop Bullying. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, n.d. Web. 15 Mar. 2014. When Five Fell. Dir. Wesley Chan. Prod. Philip Wang. Perf. Mimi Chao, William Yu, David Choi, AJ Rafael, Bobby Choy, Paul Dateh, Chris Dinh. YouTube. YouTube, 4 May 2010. Web. 6 Mar. 2014.


Thuy-Tien Le

In her near future, Thuy aspires to get accepted into a California college and major in something that interests her. She doesn't know exactly what she wants to do with her life yet, but she believes that she will find out when the time comes. In the meantime, she is on the quest to find happiness and true love while living her life to its fullest.

Wislr, the Revolutionary Network

Thuy-Tien [Thuy] Le is currently a junior at Los Altos High School and Freestyle Academy. Her parents live in the Bay Area, but as she likes to tell it; she lives in the moment. She is an active participant in the Future Business Leaders of America, Key Club, Let's Erase the Stigma (LETS), and To Write Love on Her Arms movement. In her spare time, Thuy likes to operate a blog on Tumblr and religiously watch many TV shows like How I Met Your Mother, Pretty Little Liars, and the Walking Dead. She is also a huge fan of music and some of the artists she listens to include The Neighbourhood, Arctic Monkeys, Mayday Parade, Pierce the Veil, and Coldplay.

the revolutionary network Written and Designed By Thuy-Tien Le


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