At the beginning of the spring semester, St. Olaf was introduced to Fizz, an anonymous app accessible only to college students. The app allows students to post photos or short texts anonymously, and a St. Olaf email is required to access posts specific to the college. Seemingly overnight in early February, the app gained traction among the St. Olaf student body. Students are posting on the app every five seconds. In addition, the app is being heavily advertised with posters and merchandise giveaways popping up around campus. Among the buzz for this new platform, a question remains as to why Fizz is so strongly advertised on campus and where exactly it came from.
Fizz’s origin is strikingly similar to that of Facebook’s, down to being created by a university dropout. Teddy Solomon, former Stanford student and co-founder of Fizz, was hailed as “the next Mark Zuckerberg” after Fizz gained traction among Stanford and Rice students in a matter of days. The goal was to curate a platform which reflected the experiences of students within unique colleges. Since its popularity surged this past August, Solomon has expected to reach 1,000 universities in 2023. Now St. Olaf is one of them, and it’s impossible to miss the numerous Fizz advertisements. The first few days of spring semester, students’ Instagram stories flooded with pleas to download Fizz. Donuts were offered to those who had downloaded it, and those who reposted the app’s information were given free bucket hats. Perhaps most interestingly, some students were contacted by Fizz on LinkedIn.
These offers seem too good to be true, and they just might be. Along with its communal aspect — and there certainly is one — Solomon states that Fizz strives to be utterly anonymous, “right when you strip away that name, you’re able to be your authentic self.” And while this anonymity does allow for further expression and heightened confidence when it comes to confessing your love for that one kid in your class, it can also allow for slander, racism, and bigotry to go unchecked, or even “upvoted.” Though Fizz has moderators to take down hate speech, many posts stay up and receive likes for hours. The app also faced controversy earlier last year when it was revealed that Fizz had problems with the security of its users, meaning it was quite easy to break through the app’s database and reveal the authors of each post.
The Fizz app is not the first social network to come to the St. Olaf campus. In recent years, the Yik Yak app has gained national popularity. Much like Fizz, it is an anonymous posting and messaging platform that caters to college students. However, it has been controversial due to the prevalence of bullying, sexual harassment, and hate speech that its anonymous format seems to encourage — the app shut down in 2017 and has only recently been re-introduced. The “St. Olaf Flirts” Facebook page is another anonymous posting platform that has been steadily popular for several years. It has also garnered complaints — some students believe that Flirts’ format, which is based around the premise of sending anonymous flirtatious messages to students, enables harassment and bullying. “St. Olaf Hurts,” a Facebook page devoted to anonymous complaining, shut down in fall 2021 because of rampant bullying. It is clear that St. Olaf students are eager to have their own online spaces, but that those spaces are never without controversy.
In any case, the influx of St. Olaf students on Fizz has made a splash in campus culture, be it positive or negative. You can complain about faculty, make 500 dollars, vote in a poll for the best sports team, and even try to get your crush to message you back.
Grace Heinz is from Stillwater, Minn. Her majors are French and philosophy.