While Sara and I were sitting on the couch last night she expressed disappointment that she couldn’t play Nintendo DS games online with her daughter while she was at her ex’s house. At the time we didn’t know about Nintendo Wifi Connection but it did get us thinking about technologies like Bump on the iPhone and Android and how you could build a new social network that was safe, private and much more intimate than the free for all, spam ridden experience that has become the hall mark of most networks.
The concept is actually remarkably simple, so simple that I wouldn’t be surprised if someone points out the existence of one in the comments, although my (limited) research hasn’t unearthed one yet.
One of the biggest problems with social networks is that it doesn’t take long before the spammers, marketers, gurus and porn bots to take over. Once you join it’s only a matter of time before you’re receiving unsolicited friends requests from obscure brands and the gurus keep trying to sell you schemes to get 10,000 followers in a day while they’ve only got a couple of hundred themselves.
The other problem with social networks is the stalking factor. We start to lose touch of what a friend is.
We see somebody we don’t know on the network, and start following them. Pretty soon we’re following hundreds of people who don’t even know we exist and there is no real connection.
I’m connected to some marketer in the butt hole of nowhere but is he really my “friend” just because Facebooks says so?
When everybody and their dog is your “friend” online, the word begins to lose relevance in your offline life.
While we’re busy stalking all these pseudo friends we’re also losing track of our real life friends. Sure we talk to them online, but we’re spending vast amounts of time digesting endless tweets about bowel movements and what some transvestite 4000 miles away had for breakfast, instead of actually investing real time in our real relationships.
How about a network where the only people you can talk to (and that can talk to you) are people you’ve met in real life?
How about a network where the only way to become friends with somebody was by the explicit pairing of two devices.
As an example, something like Bump contact sharing on the iPhone except available on multiple devices such as Nintendo DS etc.
Only after a bump had been performed (actually just bumping two devices off each other but it sounds so dirty) could two people be “friends” on the network.
Such a network would solve many, if not all of the problems I have listed above.
On such a network only be able to talk to people that you really know. When you spend time online you would be cultivating real relationships with real people that you really know.
Your network would probably be much smaller, so you would have more time to get away from the computer and actually meet real people (and grow your network). It would encourage real world socializing.
Spam would be virtually eliminated, along with unsolicited friends requests. No more turning on your email to see that “deep throat the wonder dog” has started following you and would like to be your friend.
The marketers would be pissed!
Privacy could, in theory, be much easier to control as the only people who could see your content would be people you’ve actually met, unless you explicitly choose to make your content public.
Safety, especially where children are concerned, would be increased. Your kids would actually have had to meet someone before they could talk to them online.
There may be a few downsides, such as real friends who live 100’s of miles away may not be able to connect until they plan a trip, but then again, they always have email.
What do you think? Would you use a network that was populated only by people you actually met?