Picture: 123RF/NATALIYA YAKOVLEVA
Picture: 123RF/NATALIYA YAKOVLEVA

Social media can be a scary place. Platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have become the portal for the young and free to put their glamorous lives on display and boast about their exploits.

But social media is also putting greater pressure on young people to sound and appear smart. BCom student Siviwe Mgolodela says that kind of pressure is increasing. To tackle it he has created a platform which, he says, is a safe space for people who want to connect with others — but with more honesty and without feeling judged.

Mgolodela, who is majoring in entrepreneurship and innovation management at Stellenbosch University, has developed a social media platform called Unorthodox.

If successful, it will give a voice to people who want to share their opinions, emotions and problems anonymously. Eventually, the site would like to become something of a competitor to Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. However, it is still in its infancy.

Unsurprisingly the network, which was launched last September, targets young and impressionable students. Mgolodela says he was inspired to create Unorthodox after conversations he had with friends "whose moods seemed to be affected by how many likes and followers they had on social media".

He says people are under pressure to display their "best selves" on social media and they end up unconsciously communicating lies to keep up the facade.

"The truth is there is more to people than a selfie," he says. "There are layers upon layers that make people who they are, which is what Unorthodox seeks to uncover."

There are layers upon layers that make people who they are, which is what Unorthodox seeks to uncover

He wanted people to have a niche platform where they could voice their feelings and thoughts unapologetically and openly; where people can vent and use Unorthodox as an emotional outlet.

Unorthodox is a mobi site. So far, it has just 350 registered users.

Asked whether the site’s anonymity creates legal concerns, Mgolodela says there is this perception that anonymity is a way to invite trolls.

"The users we have thus far are an indication that this is not always the case," he says.

But should there be some "rotten apples", he says the site enforces "strict community guidelines". Users can hide posts that they do not wish to see and can even report or flag posts that violate the platform’s community guidelines, in which case the violator’s account will be suspended.

Mgolodela, who is from the Eastern Cape, is the sole funder of Unorthodox. He hopes to attract more funding to eventually upgrade the site. That, certainly, will determine its success.

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