Can You Create a Social Network You Won't Get Addicted To?
"When was the last time you stopped amidst a sea of 'likes' and 'hearts' just to wonder at those things you really love in this world?"
Meet Uncommon. Whereupon nearly every social network is bursting at the seams with headlines geared for clicks and shares, memes and selfies used to get brands trending on our horizon, and the cry of "follow for follow!" growing at a near-deafening volume, Uncommon is much more muted and at peace. With the tagline of "a front porch for the internet" it's a rare sight to see a new social network opening on an existential note. The tagline fits Uncommon well - colored in cool, grey shades with illustrations of people moving through life but also coming to a standstill where they may better absorb what they're reading, doing, and loving. The site feels thoughtful, and a place where it's possible to take a time out from the internet which is what the creator Brian Bailey is aiming for.
As Bailey writes on his site, Uncommon was born from a blog post that questioned if it was possible to re-imagine community online. In an interview with Fast Company, Bailey knew that current techniques used by other social networks were all about getting your attention and keeping it through any means possible. "But can you actually build a network that way?" He mused. The trouble, it seems, is less about wanting to create a community and more about the need for an audience.
Uncommon aims to gather up the curious and thoughtful, to share what you love, talk about what made your happy, and discuss what you see happening all around you. As a member of this community, you will have a profile full of all of your favorite things - things you want to discuss in depth with others with similar interests. By clicking on one these favorite things, you can see a list of other people who like the same thing which helps to break the ice and begin building rapports with others in the community. But instead of being informed that someone else likes your status or has reblogged your post as you would with virtually any other platform, notifications on Uncommon are referred to as Stacks - contributions from other members within the community, discussion prompts, and postcards with announcements.
I like where Uncommon is headed with this approach. But is it possible to create a platform in the social media space that you won't get addicted to? Oh yes it is - and now more than ever, a site like Uncommon matters.
The troubling aspect behind social media is that the "social" portion is gradually growing silent. Elite brands do not make it a habit to follow their fans or answer the questions they have, unless these fans are considered influential. But they still want you to buy their products, subscribe to their publications, and contribute to their communities for free with little to no lasting recognition. And then there's the addiction aspect of social, where we are seemingly only as good as the numbers game allows us to be. The judgment placed on those who don't have nearly enough followers and the crippling need for validation at every turn - to like and heart and regram what we're doing or else it isn't special enough. And yet we cling to these sites, checking in and refreshing the pages each and every day in the fear that we're missing out and also to see how well posts of our own are performing. Is it healthy? Not by a long shot. But that's also what makes it an addiction too.
While it's very hard to let go of our online presences, Uncommon still insists that there's a way to make sure your attention and time is focused on what counts instead of mindlessly absorbing a string of YouTube videos for hours on end. But they also won't force you to stay if you don't want to either.
That's what's so appealing about front porches. You can sit and stay for awhile, encourage others to join you, and leave whenever you like, when you feel ready.
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