Post-420 woes at Columbia
Maybe you’ve seen the enigmatic flyers around campus urging you to text some number to “find out what Columbia is really talking about.” Bwog did and was intrigued by the app behind the posters, Matter, which offers its users an anonymous environment to share their thoughts and to read the thoughts of others. We set up a long-distance interview with one of its founders, Ben Sigelman, who gave us his insights on Matter, Internet anonymity, social media, and human relationships.
Bwog: What, in your own words, is Matter?
Sigelman: It’s a place where people can feel completely comfortable being completely candid. There’s a lot of places online right now where you can be anonymous, and that’s definitely important I think, but it’s sort of necessary but not sufficient to be comfortable being candid. I think oftentimes anonymous places are also not very safe places. Even if your identity isn’t associated with what you post, you’re still kind of vulnerable to people being abusive, and I think with Matter what we’re trying to do is take all of the ingredients that are necessary to make people, you know, comfortable sharing something, which certainly includes, but is not limited to, being anonymous… So the goal with Matter is to allow people to totally find an antidote to what I think is presently happening in most of social media—which is fine—but it’s a very different experience where it’s more focused on creating a personal brand for yourself, which is the opposite of being candid I think. I have no problem with it, but it’s not real. I think the pressure of maintaining an identity online is starting to wear on people and I think Matter is a reaction to that, or at least for me it is.
B: What role do you see Matter playing, or what do you think the benefits are of having it on a college campus or in a setting like Columbia?
S: One of the things about colleges that I think is so important is that, to me, if I know someone went to my college, I immediately feel like I can identify with them. [Matter is] partly about sharing your experiences, for sure, but it’s also partly about reading the experiences of people that you can identify with. And if someone’s having boyfriend or girlfriend troubles or something like that, and you don’t know who they are: that’s one thing. But if they’re at your school and you might be passing them on the street, I feel like that becomes a lot more compelling. So [Matter] becomes a place where you can potentially, you know, raise things that are of interest to your immediate community, instead of just to humanity in general, which is a very broad target.
What is the ultimate goal of matter? Click to read Ben’s answer.