Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Is Fizz fizzing out?

Molly Boyke
Illustration Molly Boyke

Opinion editors are not responsible for agreeing or disagreeing with their writers but rather elevate each individual’s specific voice.

Last fall, some Emerson students were paid to wear white-and-purple bucket hats, pull a wagon full of doughnuts, and attempt to compel other students to download Fizz, the newest—and most controversial—app.

Because I wanted a free hat and doughnut, I may or may not have downloaded the app, alongside many of my peers. 

On Fizz, anonymity is your best friend and blissed ignorance is your enemy. 

The new issue, along with the new app, is that our college community is constantly consuming content we don’t know the source of. The influence of new software is upon us.

The app Fizz was founded by two Stanford University students in 2021 and is available on more than 80 college campuses in the U.S. The app invites individuals to voice any and all opinions to their classmates on a completely anonymous online surface. 

On the app, user appearance is non-existent, as every student is labeled “anonymous.” 

Essentially, every user is Radio Rebel—Debby Ryan’s character in the 2012 Disney Channel original movie where she masquerades as a popular DJ in Seattle. She’s a nerd at school, but has a popular online presence. 

I admit, I’m also a “Radio Rebel” on Fizz. I too fell victim to the Fizz takeover last semester as it quickly gained popularity when students gained more confidence to voice their opinions that weren’t attached to a name or face. While I don’t admit it to even my closest friends, I enjoy posting and re-Fizzing.

I revel in the dialogue Fizz creates. It allows students to express themselves without concern for their reputation or “social status.” On the positive side, students have a safe space to share their thoughts and opinions about issues the college has—like the tuition increase or the dining hall food—without having their identity attached to their complaint. It can even facilitate conversations about race and sexuality.

But if “Gossip Girl” taught us anything, it’s that anonymity brings anarchy.

Since users are anonymous, content ranges from harmless jokes and confessions to hurtful comments. Anonymity brings out the worst in people, allowing people to post things they would never say to someone’s face.

From one anonymous confession to the next, Fizz posts range from vulnerability to vulgarization. 

I can see students’ internal monologues reflecting the waves of anguish they’re scared to share. 

Fizz portrays itself as a refuge for some individuals, which can be true—students with no other outlet for their concerns may turn to an app like this, using it as a beneficial and safe tool for expression. 

On the flip side, however, the lack of regulation on such anonymous apps quickly destroys the sentiment of a “safe space.” Some students have received hateful remarks and even death threats for their posts on the app. How can a space be safe for anybody if students are actively being threatened in it?

Users on the leaderboards, who ascend based on how well-liked their posts are, often earn their place because users who treat Fizz as a chance to hate are rewarded by the algorithm. If users are being targeted not for specific content, but just for simply being users, it shows how toxic the space can be.

Fizz monitors cyber-harassment, but not well enough. If any regular user can open the app and see hate broadcasted to the entire Emerson student population, the app is not being sufficiently moderated. 

Anonymity brings out the true colors of people when they’re not bound by any societal norms. Bullying is much easier when your identity is concealed. 

Reported users have likely threatened or caused harm to other students, constituting cyberbullying. 

Fizz has had a significant influence on Emerson life as rumors and drama transcend in-person conversations, now possessing a life of their own across campus. 

Fizz is essentially inviting a “Gossip Girl” revival at Emerson—someone wielding control over us through our secrets, and we remain unaware of their identity. As “Gossip Girl” has shown us, friends will anonymously divulge each other’s secrets when there aren’t any repercussions. 

In order to maintain a positive college experience free from “Gossip Girl,” Emerson and Fizz must both remain cognizant of student culture. 

Gossip, jokes, and events might all be expected to be significantly influenced by Fizz.

That is a collaboration that Emerson did not agree to, something else dictating student lives. 

Fizz is a biz! A business company that exploits user usage to generate revenue without considering the safety of individual users like Emerson does.

Ideally, the university would eliminate any association with the app. Given that we live in a democratic world, safety measures would require the app to communicate reported users with the campus administration.

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