Can a social network work without the ability to like, comment or share? Is it enough to keep people interested? And what does it tell us about our overloaded social world?
Ustwo studio’s latest app is an experiment for our modern times: a social network without the ‘social’ element. Users submit photos that get anonymously sent to one other person, somewhere else completely random in the world and they in turn receive one.
You have no idea who you’re sharing with, except for the location data that you receive. There is no way to comment or like. If Rando is a community, it is a silent one.
The obvious thought may be misuse of the platform – random photo-sharing seems a clear target for unsavoury voyeuristic photo exchange. This is why the app requires you to send a Rando before receiving one, plus there is a clear and easy way to report one for being inappropriate.
Ustwo have considered the principle quite smartly. You won’t find the app available in the regular “photos” category of the app store. It’s designed to be a more cerebral, considered activity than any vintage filter app. The stripped down process – take a photo, send it, wait for one to receive – has an emphasis on the content like no other media-sharing app I know. You can’t help but be delighted when you receive a good one, annoyed when you receive a poorly lighted one (“I know it’s dark in Denmark right now but really??”)
I was at first, sceptical. And it is perhaps telling about how accustomed I am to our social world that on receiving my first few Randos I felt the need to screenshot them and tweet a comment. But my OH, someone who is very much against social media has really taken to it. When we were out over the weekend, he “spotted a good Rando”, snapped it and sent it on. Knowing the Rando had been sent to Missouri, US and getting one back from Moscow, Russia was enough of an incentive to send more, to see where else he could get a look-in, what other interesting photos there would be from somewhere we are unaccustomed with being connected to. Stripping away the likes and comments or possibility of pointless chatter made it just about the content and that’s how he prefers it.
To me, Rando feels like a well-timed response to our tendency in 2013 to overload our world with social, without consideration of what we’re doing and making it valuable. We have never been more connected but how much is too much? Rando is an opportunity to let us take advantage of technology to be and feel connected, but to not make it about us. It’s a reminder to not just be social for the sake of it… but to focus on the content and make it count.
If you don’t think it’s for you, take note simply by looking at what you or the company accounts that you manage are saying, sharing, liking, retweeting; is it valuable? If you took all the social ephemera away, would it still have worth?