The Anti Side Of Social Media: A Wave of New Apps Is Upon Us
Lately I find myself particularly aware of all the ways in which social media is impeding my experience of actual life. I'm talking the times when I'm out to dinner with friends and everyone spends a majority of the evening popping their phones in and out of pockets, snapping food photos, painstakingly selecting filters and uploading pics to Instagram (before tagging everyone they're hanging out with in real life in this digital version of our real-time experience).
But the worst part of the Instagram dinner pic? It contributes to the creation of an identity that doesn't represent who we actually are offline. What's more is that we're incentivized not to show our true colors, because it's something that we might have to live with for however long the web lasts.
This is exactly the kind of conundrum that's causing a backlash against big social networks — and paving the way for anti-social apps like Snapchat, the massively popular tool that makes our pictures and video messages disappear within seconds. Another example is billionaire businessman Mark Cuban's self-destructing text messaging app Cyber Dust.
“I don't want one of my texts taking on a life of its own and I find myself in a lawsuit because someone forwards or posts one of my texts,” Cuban says in a Forbes article on the subject. Cyber Dust promises users privacy by erasing text messages 24 seconds after they're read, using strong encryption technology to stop servers from saving texts and notifying users if a screenshot is taken of their text message.
Other anti-social apps like Whisper, Secret and Anomo have made a huge splash in the marketplace, reeling in millions from venture capitalists while encouraging users to express what they want with the peace of mind that those messages can't be traced back to them. Whisper — which allows users to share confessions anonymously — recently made headlines when it raised $30 million with a valuation of $200 million. This was after raising $21 million with a $76 million valuation six months prior. Most of its users are females between the ages of 18 and 29 with confessions like “My husband's low sex drive has ripped apart every bit of self-confidence I used to have.”
Founder Michael Heyward explains the phenomenon to AllThingsD:
“The problem with profile-based networks is they're always trying to make you be one person. You can't be captain of football and really like Glee. You can't be a great dad and a huge tattoo enthusiast. We connect people around content, rather than connecting around people.”
With its anonymous confessions, Whisper acts almost like therapy for its users: the chance to get a secret off your chest without being judged or worried that what you say will affect you down the road.
Like Whisper, Secret — which launched in January 2014 — is an app that enables users to post secrets without any attribution. The company closed its Series A round with $10 million at a $50 million valuation in March.
Anomo allows you to share things with your connections, but on your own terms. While getting to know other users, you can choose to reveal certain parts of your identity to specific people, such as your name, picture or occupation. The idea behind Anomo is that you get to know people based on the interactions you have with them — very much like in real life.
As these anti-social apps continue to rise in popularity and make headlines, what will happen to big social media networks like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or Pinterest? The answer is simple: nothing.
People who use anti-social apps aren't doing so because they want to quit social media; they're using apps like Whisper, Secret and Anomo because they want to take a break from always being cautious about what they're posting and sharing. The bottom line is, people need to be able to share ideas and thoughts to feel relevant, spot trends or know what's going on in the world. But I guess that still leaves me wondering, as I sit across the table from the people I'm closest to, ordering food… do we have to share a photo of our french fries and milkshake, too?