The vicious world of anonymous online gossip may have finally met its match. The website LikeALittle.com, a self-described "flirting-facilitator platform," is spreading across college campuses nationwide faster than last night's news at Sunday brunch.
LikeALittle was founded in October 2010 by three Stanford students "after 90 cumulative years of frustrated flirtation, 42 cups of coffee, and 12 hours of hardcore development," according to the site. Since launching at Stanford, the site has expanded to 469 schools, and the number is growing fast.
Bowdoin's branch was launched on December 7 by Anita Shah '14, Daniel Jeong '12, Allen Garner '12 and Elisa Cecere '12, who serve as founding members and moderators.
Potential suitors (or joking friends) describe their crush's sex, hair color, and present location. If students contribute a directory of locations on campus, which does not yet exist for Bowdoin, LikeALittle also allows users to subscribe to follow updates from their favorite spots. All posts are anonymous, and commenters are given random fruit-based pseudonyms.
Co-founder and CEO Evan Reas says the founders were inspired by their own personal frustrations in the dating world. The site aims to spark conversation and, potentially, relationships.
"We noticed that it was difficult to communicate with people around us, whether it be a cute person in a café, a neighbor in the same apartment complex, or a student around campus," Reas said in an e-mail to the Orient. "It is difficult and awkward to make that first move and we knew that first-hand from seeing cute girls around us and just being too shy to say hello."
"We decided to come up with interesting ways to connect people in the world around them, and the rest is history," Reas said.
The Bowdoin launch was motivated by a conversation among the founding members about controversial gossip site College ACB. Itself heir apparent to the now-defunct Juicy Campus gossip site, College ACB has drawn criticism for the volume of personal and offensive posts, as well as for the removal of offensive posts.
Reas and his co-founders recognize the risk of starting an anonymous site, so LikeALittle distinguishes itself by strongly enforcing a positive atmosphere. The posting form prompts users to "offer a compliment to somebody and please no negative messages or real names." Moderators remove posts that offend, defame, or breach the site's anonymity policy.
"With anonymity, some people do abuse it with negative things, so we are working really hard to keep it extremely positive," Reas said. "Every site has moderators, we have bad word filters and anybody with an edu e-mail address can immediately delete any post."
With a policy that makes it as easy to remove offensive material as it is to post it, the Bowdoin site appears to be almost totally free of negativity.
The moderators have been pleased with the outcome so far.
In comparison to preceding anonymous sites, "It's a lot more positive," Cecere said. "I like that it's anonymous and really stresses that it should be nice, complimentary things."
As long as the air of positivity endures, factual correctness may be less important than having a good time.
"It's hard for me to tell who's actually being serious," Garner said. "I think that's the fun of the site—that you can't really tell who's doing it and whether it's a joke or whether someone actually cares."
Because of the anonymity policy, secret admirers can only hope that the object of their desire will see the post, identify with it and respond. Reas, however, said he believes the site has already been successful at forging new relationships.
"We have heard of thousands of couples getting together and people connecting online and offline because of the site," Reas said. "But we are still in the baby stages of what is to come. We believe this will really change how people interact with people around them."
Garner agrees that the site has been effective so far.
"As long as people are getting enjoyment out of it, I think it's a success," she said.
For the thousands of people from whom Reas has heard success stories, they seem to like it more than a little.