There's a new social media app captivating teens. Using the Gas app, users can anonymously compliment their friends (or secret crushes), and the app is gaining steam among young users.
NBC News correspondent Savannah Sellers reports on TODAY that 1 in 3 teens are using the app and more than 1 billion compliments have been shared, according to Gas app founder Nikita Bier.
So, how does it work? Gas app users can log on and compliment, or "gas up," their friends. Users take a series of polls about their friends, with questions ranging from thoughtful to flirty.
"You sign up, join your high school and or you sync your contacts, so we can find your friends," Bier told Sellers.
Bier says people have drawn comparisons to other anonymous apps that are plagued by bullying.
"The distinction with Gas is that we author all the content so that you’re answering polls that are generally uplifting and positive, and that’s kind of the aim of the product," Bier says.
Sample polls: "I'd say yes if (blank) asked me out on a date." "I think (blank) is the coolest kid in school." Users select a name to fill in the blanks, and people can see the results without knowing who cast the votes.
Bier says Gas has been designed in a way that is "completely safe and private."
"We don’t allow messaging of any kind (and) we don’t have any advertising or tracking," he says. "We’ve really wanted to create a safe place for teens to share what they love about each other and I think we’ve really accomplished that with Gas."
Sellers talked with Stuyvesant High School students in New York who reported positive interactions with the app and shared examples of compliments they have received.
"Would make an ugly face and still look pretty," a student named Fin, whose last name has been withheld to protect their privacy, shared.
But are there negatives associated with an app dedicated to "gassing" people up?
Titania Jordan, chief parenting officer at Bark Technologies, a social media watchdog platform for parents, says yes.
"While Gas isn’t nearly as dangerous as other apps we’ve reviewed lately, it has its share of issues," she tells TODAY.com. "The app prompts you to add your contacts from your phone, and if you choose to, you can then see all kinds of people in randomly generated polls, which could get messy."
Jordan adds that while nothing "super explicit or identifying is revealed through these polls," the possibility exists for kids to become "very attached to the idea of someone liking them, leading them to obsessively using and checking the app."
Jordan also warns against a portion of the app that charges money.
"Gas features a subscription upgrade called 'God Mode' that unlocks features that will reveal extra information in polls," she says. "For example, you can see the first letter of the name of someone who voted for you or you can get notified whenever someone adds your name to a new poll."
The Bark Technologies executive says this feature could potentially get more kids hooked on the app, and "may lead to them spending more and more money and time on it."
Bier said the hint function is the only way the company monetizes the app, and "we actually encourage teens not to use it. Because it’s more fun when it’s a mystery."
Jordan says parents know their kids best, and to proceed using caution, just like with all social apps.