Saturday, April 12, 2014

Rise of Anti-Social Apps & Limits of Social Networking

Smart phones have indeed made people smarter. Right now, there are millions of Smartphone users who are worried about their loss of privacy.

On one hand Smart Phones gave users tremendous power to communicate with anybody in real time - via social networks. Social Networking Apps such as Facebook & Twitter gained immensely from this. But with passage of time, users are slowly understanding the "dark" power of social networks: Loss of privacy. Some people found it the hard way - when they were not getting hired - because of some "party pictures" in the social network, or a comment.

The social networks help people connect and communicate, but it also remembers all communications forever, and all communications are instantly made public!  This leads to loss of privacy.

Smart phones today have built-in GPS and it can imbed all the locational information in photos, videos, messages etc. Cell phone service provider can track the location of each smart phone using the GPS or by triangulation. In extreme cases, malacious software can be added to the phone which can record all conversations/communication and send to a predetermined location without the knowledge of the user!

Its no wonder that people are now abandoning social networks. Many users whom I know are not posting anything on their network and the volume of activity in my social network has dropped by nearly 90% from its peak two years ago. In other words, we have seen the high tide mark of Social Networking.

As users became more aware of the disadvantages of Facebook & Twitter, they switched over to apps such as Snapchat & Whatsapp or LiveChat, etc.  These apps allow discreet communications.

Secrecy has its advantages for people and It's quite attractive. These niche apps were being developed to capture some of few remaining untapped social-media markets.

Now, a  new trend of Apps are coming: The "Anti-Social Apps." While most social networks aim to connect people, one new service seeks to join the growing trend of doing the opposite and help you avoid them.

Some of the new Apps in this category are:

Cloak: 

Cloak 'anti-social' app helps you avoid your friends. Cloak uses location information from other social networks (FourSquare and Instagram at the moment) to work out where your friends are. It then informs you via push notifications so you can avoid anyone you'd prefer not to see. Users can choose to receive an alert when certain people are believed to be nearby.  You can also view friends on a map or on a detailed list telling you how close they are, to the nearest mile. It's free and currently available on IoS.

Snapchat:
Snapchat is used to send pictures and videos - which is automatically deleted seconds after they have been viewed.  This is opposite to that of Facebook, which keeps the photos/videos forever and for everyone to see.

Secret: 
Secret broadcasts messages anonymously - are growing in popularity. Using Secret, one can share a confession with your network (in practice, those of your contacts who also have the app), though they won't know it was shared by you. You must have a minimum of three friends before you start sharing (in order to protect your secrets). In theory, secrets that are liked and reshared can spread across the world — though the app's developers insist you won't be identified at any point. Posts are encrypted so that the Secret team doesn't know what you're sharing.

Whisper: 
Whisper, like Secret enables users to share secrets. One can also respond to other Whispers with your own, and there is a private messaging app if you long to live in a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. You can browse by topic, so you can quell your conscience by unearthing others who have cheated on the other halves/shoplifted something/failed to give up their seat on the Tube.  It's free and available on IoS.

Closing Thoughts 

Today's young generation are done with sharing and uploading nearly every part of their lives. Instead, intimacy and privacy in the digital age is now what they seemingly seek. Constantly being connected to the world was cool way back when, but this constant connection has created lots of problems and people are fleeing from it.

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