Is Anti-Social Networking What’s Next(t)?

You would have to be living under a rock to not have heard of social networking — but have you ever heard of anti-social networking?

I thought I hadn’t until I saw an article that I tweeted out last week, which mentioned a number of anti-social networks (Snapchat being one of them). These anti-social networks offer social interaction, but with the boundaries of location, anonymity, or only being allowed to include your closest friends/family in your network circles. These platforms hope that excluding the number or type of connections a user can have will lead to a richer user experience where people can more deeply share and connect online.

But does creating “inner circles,” following the location of your family, or talking about interests anonymously improve connection? In class there has been a lot of talk about social media and whether it makes people less social. When we constantly check our apps on our mobile phones at all times of the day, how can social networking, or even anti-social networking, truly improve connection? Even if you are posting to only your closest and most valued friends, will sharing your lives online ever make up for the bonds that you make when you are sharing your lives in the same room?

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Mark McGuire and Emmanuel Buah are both tired of experiencing what they call a “Social Web Hangover.”

Social Web Hangover symptoms include but are not limited to:

  • Pressure to perform choreographed versions of ourselves online, creating feelings of envy, jealously and fear of missing out (FOMO)
  • An inability to live in the moment as we digitally archive our lives
  • A focus on the self that encourages narcissism and reduces empathy
  • Anxiety about maintaining hundreds of superficial digital relationships, leaving less time to foster deeper, face-to-face relationships
  • A desire to spend more time doing things in the real world and less time online

I have indeed experienced symptoms of the so-called social web hangover. Even though I don’t use it, I downloaded Snapchat because I had FOMO. I sometimes worry that my Instagram will become obsolete because I am not posting photos at least once a week. I find myself checking Facebook and Twitter when I am waiting for class to start, rather than taking the time to make conversation with whoever is sitting next to me. What is the first thing that I do when I wake up? Check my phone for notifications. Social Web Hangover is an ailment I have woken up with more than once.

“There is an incredible pressure to perform on social media today — to present a specific version of ourselves, to say and do all the right things, and to focus on what we’ve accomplished. We’re losing our ability to live in the moment as we’re carefully documenting our lives across feeds, hashtags, pics, and more. The social web has given us incredible new ways to share our past or present; why don’t we have a service to help us create our future?”

– Mark McGuire CEO and cofounder of Nextt

And so now, to help cure the social web hangover, there is Nextt – An anti-social network that is all about using online communication to enable offline connection. This private network is for face-to-face friends and simplifies the process of planning activities for future in-person experiences with people who you already know. Nextt seeks to inspire and encourage people to do more in the real world, and get them out of their relationship-numbing online-life routines.

Currently Nextt is in private beta and much to my dismay I was not yet granted access, so I have no idea which features the app possesses to foster chatting and hangouts without screens. And while I am all for the company’s mission (read the entire manifesto here) I am skeptical if they can actually promote more quality time between friends and family if they are doing so with yet another social app.

If the founders of the company themselves feel overwhelmed by the number of networking apps available, what will make people want to engage on yet another networking app, even if its purpose is for offline connection? Will adding one more really solve the problem?

Nextt says that social networks like FB, email chains, and group messages are an inefficient form of organizing plans with friends. How do you think they will solve this problem? I wonder how they will motivate users to not only make plans with friends, but to also follow through on those plans. Perhaps gamification will be involved? And will they try to force people to not be glued to their mobile phones during said offline plans?

Even though I have my doubts, this idea really intrigues me. But more importantly, I like the movement that this company is a part of. In the company mission, Nextt makes it clear that today more than ever, life is about balance – and in this case the focus is on balancing being “connected” and truly connecting.

What do you think – is this the best way to balance our online presence and our offline relationships? Is it possible for one more network fix what other social networks created? Have you ever experienced social web hangover and are you looking for a cure?

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http://www.getnextt.com

VentureBeat Article

9 comments

  1. I really enjoyed your blog! I find the concept of “Nextt” fascinating, because as you mentioned it’s hard to believe it promotes more in-person interaction, when that action has to be stimulated by an app. However, I found the message behind the video very refreshing..”Get Busy Living.” By only counter-argument to the anti-social media movement is that social media enables you to engage with people even when you’re not with them, which in my opinion enhances the connections we make with the people not only around us, but maybe those who aren’t so close either.

  2. Our final part of our “Management Practice” series during the MBA program is a course on entrepreneurship, where we support real start-ups with writing a business plan. One company was called Achvr (https://beta.achvrs.com/) where you create, track, share and earn points with friends on life goals. For instance, if you have a goal to skydive, you can put it on your Achvr app and earn points once you “achieve” it.

    The idea here is similar – you’re using a form of social media, but at the same time be engaged in what is going on in the world around you and engaging in friendly competition to experience more in life. Although I don’t think I’ve experienced social media hangover, I will say I get terribly frustrated when I am out to dinner or having a conversation with someone and they stop in the middle to scroll through their phone. On principal, I rarely even reply to txts when out to a meal or catching up with friends. It gives the impression “wait, there’s something more important than you right now, and it’s maintaining my personal brand.” I’m looking forward to seeing what Nextt comes up with and if it’s similar to Achvr. Thanks for the insightful post!

  3. This was a very interesting post. I agree that until we can actually see Nextt in action there is no way of truly knowing how it is going to help us connect better offline. It could simply be just a better calendar that what already exists.

    Personally, I find it very intriguing that with all this technology it has indeed become harder to schedule time with people. We seem to wait until the last minute to make or break plans because we can. The few time I have forgotten or had my phone die on me, I have been utterly disappointed when plans fall through. Sometimes finding out when no one shows up. We have gotten into a mindset that nothing is set in stone unless we get a message confirming right before it happens.

    Anyway, I do think we are in an interesting time trying to find the right balance. FOMO seems to be a term that is getting thrown around more and more, but is it really anything new? Or is Social Media just a catalyst speeding us these feelings of regret or missing out since we can find information instantly. Thanks for the post and I will definitely try and see where Nexxt takes us!

  4. GREAT VIDEO. Of course I agree with Nextt’s mission, and I love what they’re trying to do (although the clip of the three road trippers looking at a map is a bit unrealistic…I wonder if we could successfully complete a road trip these days without a GPS?)

    Mark McGuire’s points are extremely valid, and I’m interested to see what strategy he has up his sleeve to actually inspire change of habit. I think while society seems to be getting more and more social media-obsessed, and addiction to constant connection, the future trend will definitely lean toward face-to-face interaction…there’s no Facebook post, friend request acceptance, or re-tweet quite as satisfying as real time spent with friends, and Nextt is smart to take advantage of this.

    Will they succeed right away? I don’t know. There’s bound to be some resistance, because online chat habits have been so engrained in the current young generation (reminds me of my post about AIM). That said, if Nextt can provide a unique, high-quality user experience that integrates with real-world activities and inspire the same addiction people feel for other social networks, I think they may really have a shot.

  5. […] Is Anti-Social Networking What’s Next(t)? […]

  6. Interesting post, and I have thought about social media making society anti-social as well. Our class must not be alone in thinking this if these guys are dedicating so much time and money to found Nextt. I agree with the founder of Nextt’s mission, but I wasn’t quite sure how the application works. The video just shows people doing things together, which is their end goal, so it will be interesting to see how they wish to accomplish this. It was eye-opening to see the numbers at the beginning of the video, though. I also wonder if using social media to improve efficiency at the workplace is making people more anti-social. If a company perfectly implements an efficient social media communication system to cut down on long meetings and email chains, will there be face to face meetings anymore? It would be strange having a workplace where you don’t even know your co-workers or boss in person.

  7. […] Is Anti-Social Networking What’s Next(t)? (mi621.com) […]

  8. I’d be interested in hearing where they got the stats at the beginning of their video. I’m admittedly very attached to my phone, but I don’t check it 150 times a day. I do not deny that we spend more time online, but I don’t think that necessarily means we’re replacing in-person interactions and relationships with online ones. I maintain my relationships with people too far away for me to see in person and supplement my relationships with people physically near to me online, but I still prefer to get lunch with a friend than have a text conversation. From what I see around campus, this is the case for (imo) the majority of people. Games, dances, concerts, speaker series – we have these experiences in person and frequently. I’m curious to see how this app can augment these experiences, but I don’t think we’ve become complete automatons just yet :-)

  9. […] Is Anti-Social Networking What’s Next(t)? (mi621.com) These anti-social networks offer social interaction, but with the boundaries of location, anonymity, or only being allowed to include your closest friends/family in your network circles. These platforms hope that excluding the number or type of connections a user can have will lead to a richer user experience where people can more deeply share and connect online. + Even if you are posting to only your closest and most valued friends, will sharing your lives online ever make up for the bonds that you make when you are sharing your lives in the same room? […]

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