Gas has become one of the most popular apps for high schoolers. Its name stems from the idea of “gassing” someone up, Gen Z-speak for making people feel good about themselves. But is the app really a positive force? What’s the catch?
What is the Gas app?
Gas is the latest social media app to catch fire with high school students. Earlier this school year, it was the top free social media platform in Apple’s app store. Its founders include Nikita Bier, who launched a similar app called “tbh” back in 2017.
On Gas, users select their school and grade from a pre-populated list based on their location to begin building their contacts. Then teens are presented with polls and asked to choose which of four listed contacts has the best photos, who always passes the vibe check, who is the most empathetic, who is always flirting, or who they’d want to hold hands with during a horror movie.
What are the dangers of the Gas app?
Gas eschews some of the features that have made other apps—like Snapchat or Instagram—risky for teens. Strangers can’t contact kids. Users can only say nice things to each other, by participating in polls with an ostensibly positive spin, instead of writing their own, possibly hurtful messages.
Still, bullying is possible, even if less overt. For one thing, students may find they never rise to the top of any of the polls. (The app does try to correct for this, by surfacing users’ names more often if they haven’t received any recent compliments.) And second, some of the supposedly positive polls could be used facetiously. For instance, someone who objectively realizes that they are not the best-looking kid in school could be mockingly selected as “most beautiful.”
Earlier this year, there was a rumor circulating that Gas was being used for human trafficking. That’s not true, even though some police departments, including the one in Piedmont, Okla., put out warnings about the app.
Is the Gas app anonymous?
For the most part, the answer is yes. Users that stick with the free version—which is the vast majority—can’t see who is voting for them in polls. But for a fee of $6.99 a week, users can upgrade to a premium version that offers extras, including hints about who is voting for them in polls, such as the first letter of a name.
Is the Gas app free?
Most users—more than 95 percent, according to Bier—opt for the free version. But there is a premium version that costs $6.99 a week, which can add up to a lot of money over time for a high school kid.
That has experts questioning whether Gas is seeking to profit from teenage anxieties, by convincing them that the premium version will give them a better sense of what their peers think of them.
“It feels a little exploitative to me,” said Spencer Greenhalgh, an assistant professor at the University of Kentucky’s school of information sciences. “They know teenagers are insecure and they want to know what their friends think about them.”