The Boston University branch of likealittle.com launched on Tuesday, November 9. By November 10, it had become popular, and by the end of the week, it was massive.
Like a Little, a twitter-like website which facilitates anonymous flirting, is simple enough. Users write public and anonymous posts to or about people they see. They enter the other person’s gender, hair color, where they were seen on campus and a short message to the person. Once the message is posted, other users can comment. There are no login names, so comments are seen from “Guava,” “Cucumber” or some other kind of produce.
When it launched on October 26, the site was exclusive to students at Stanford University, its point of origin. The site has grown every day since. By now it reaches almost one hundred campuses.
“We have been excited and humbled by how quickly the site has grown,” said Evan Reas, site CEO and founder, in an e-mail interview with the Quad. “We thought it would be big, but thought it would take a bit more time.” Reas, who graduated Stanford with an MBA in 2009, created the website with the help of fellow coders Shubham Mitta and Prasanna Sankaranarayanan. They oversee the entire project, but each individual university page is run by regional founders.
Like a Little’s presence on campus has been significant. The BU page accrues hundreds of posts per day. “BU right now is the most active school,” Raes said. “A few others like Northwestern, Puget Sound, Stanford, and Hope are also growing fast.” The page at BU gathers about twenty-five posts per hour. The number fluctuates depending on time of day; early in the morning there are relatively few posts, but during large social events like hockey games, the number can skyrocket.
Though the site is primarily for flirting, its functions are flexible. For instance, students have used it to anonymously tell loud students across the room to be quiet. But most of these posts are quickly deleted; in an attempt to efficiently clear the site of any offensive posts, Like a Little has an open moderation system. According to the website, “ANYBODY with a bu.edu email can delete any post, any time or report them so everyone can feel the Like a Little love!”
The site can also be used Missed-Connections-style. Meeting an attractive peer, flirting and forgetting to exchange numbers is an all-too-common scenario of college party life. Students can post descriptions of the person, where they met and pronounce a desire to meet again.
Missed Connections, said Raes, partially inspired Like a Little, but so did other missed-encounter-type spin-offs.
For example, ISawYouHarvard, a Harvard-run site created by a student for a Computer Science project, took the missed-connections concept and applied it to the specific location of Harvard’s campus.
Like a Little, in turn, applied Harvard’s concept on a larger scale. “We thought this has potential to be really big,” Raes said. “We really think of this as the next big location-based communication platform and flirting is where we start.” It expanded on a concept presented by Facebook back in 2004: the site was created to bring students on one campus together. Then it blew up, seemingly overnight.
As Raes acknowledged, its presence on campus can be attributed to BU’s large student body. It is still new, so not yet as ubiquitous as the more widespread Missed Connections. And despite its popularity, the student response to the site has been mixed.
“The whole idea is cute,” Jennifer Yeon, a sophomore in the College of Engineering, told the Quad on Wednesday. “But the way people use it… the comments are a little on the trashy side.” She is wary of the openness and anonymity of the service, and felt it tends to bring out the worst in people; few things posted to the site are actually fun or flirty. “Most of the posts are about hookups,” she said.
College of Arts and Sciences Freshman Yevgeniy Shlkovsky finds the whole concept “funny,” and assumes that the number of posts to the site that are actually genuine is “about fifty-fifty.” The rest are inside jokes between friends, he surmised.
Roman Perry, a College of Communications freshman, found a comment posted about himself on the site through an anonymous tip. The initial post described him. Subsequent comments, some of them negative, mentioned him by name; he found the ordeal “more flattering, than anything.” Perry said he was fazed neither by the criticism, nor being posted to the site.
Like a Little sprouted quickly, and its fate has yet to be determined. Upon creation, ISawYouHarvard exploded, but declined significantly shortly thereafter. According to a story in Harvard Magazine tracking the site’s development, the site’s activity flat-lined over the first winter break of its existence and never made a full recovery. If it expands its services beyond gimmick, Like a Little could become a college mainstay, like Twitter or Facebook. Or, BU’s obsession with the flirt-service could be like its fixation with Four Loko or LipDubs: fun and viral, but ultimately fleeting.