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Social networking platform Sidechat gains prominence on campus

App offers opportunity for anonymous commenting, has been launched at several universities

<p>Students must log in using their Brown username to create an account on university-specific Sidechat.</p>

Students must log in using their Brown username to create an account on university-specific Sidechat.

Sidechat, a mobile application designed for college students to anonymously “share memes, jokes, thoughts, confessions and more” with their classmates, according to its App Store description, has become increasingly popular in the Brown population, with some posts on the Brown Sidechat page garnering hundreds of reactions.

“It is kind of similar to Yik Yak,” another anonymous messaging app, said T.K. Monford ’25, a student contracted to be an ambassador for Sidechat during its launch at Brown in mid-March.

Features of Sidechat include an advertisement-free interface, push notifications and anonymous private messaging between users.

Ethan Bove ’25, who uses Sidechat, described the app as “unhinged” and “entertaining.”

“It’s always funny … to poke fun at things from anonymity,” he added.

Henry Niehaus ’25 added that the app is an “interesting way” to keep up with classmates. But Sidechat’s anonymous nature also has a “divisive” side in that it “is used by people to say things they wouldn't say to someone face-to-face,” he added.

“When you give people an anonymous platform, it's just like setting the stage for … toxicity that would otherwise not happen,” said Chas Steinbrugge ’24, who runs the Instagram page @brownumemes.

Isabella Steidley ’23 MPH ’24 added that posts on the platform are often obscene. “I don’t like scrolling through 20 sexual jokes,” she said.

Content on Sidechat is moderated, meaning that posts must follow company guidelines, according to Monford.

So far, the Sidechat app has been launched for specific schools, including private universities such as Harvard, Princeton and Tufts, Monford said. Only students attending a college where Sidechat has been launched can create, read and comment on posts, he added.

Mikael Obiomah ’25, another student contracted to help launch Sidechat at the University, said the app received “hundreds of signups” during the first day of promotion, which was conducted at tables around campus offering free cookies.

According to Sidechat’s Terms of Use, the application is run by Flower Ave Inc., a mobile app studio based in New York City. The Herald was unable to reach Flower Ave for comment.

Some students told The Herald that Sidechat seemed more popular in the underclassmen population. “I haven’t heard about (Sidechat), but it seems like something freshmen would be obsessed with,” said Joseph Suddleson ’22.

According to Claire Bergan ’22.5, the rise in popularity of Sidechat represents a generational divide in the student body’s platforms of choice. She noted that her peers used to look to meme pages on Facebook for commentary on campus life and the student experience. But now, Bergan said she does not “really look at” similar pages as a senior.

“By the time you’re a senior, … you're less worried about establishing community and more worried about just sort of maintaining the relationships you've built,” Suddleson said, adding that upperclassmen possess a “very outward-looking, forward focus” compared to underclassmen.

Most of the people recruited to help launch Sidechat were first years and sophomores, according to Monford.

Steidley said she visits dearblueno.net, a re-creation of the original Dear Blueno Facebook page, to view anonymous questions, thoughts and confessions. Though Steidley does not post on dearblueno.net, she said she still reads through all of the posts, preferring it over Sidechat.

Compared to Sidechat, dearblueno.net is more “conversation-based with longer content that revolves around campus-specific questions,” the anonymous developers of dearblueno.net wrote in an email to The Herald.

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Dear Blueno is made and maintained by Brown students with open-source code that never stores the data of anonymous authors and commenters, they added.

Clare Kennedy ’22 discussed how the original Dear Blueno Facebook page was in some ways analogous to Sidechat during her first year at Brown. “In a lot of ways, it was a really good resource, especially as a freshman (when) you have a lot of questions about what’s going on,” she said.

“There's a divide in … (upperclassmen and underclassmen’s) tolerance for drama,” she said, adding how age also brings less time for “talking to strangers online.”

As you get older, your focus shifts to “people closer to you,” who are “actually present in your life,” she added.



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