Imagine my surprise when I discovered the end of social media!
Of course, when I say “I discovered it” I literally mean that someone else discovered it.
Specifically it was discovered and built by the team at The Scene, a startup, that came to my attention via a connection suggestion on #LinkedIn. Curiosity got the best of me and I ended up on their website where I was met with a team full of young faces who were developing an app with a very specific goal: “enhance the users’ social life, not just an online persona”.
As I eluded to above, I don’t know this young team or have any affiliation with them. In fact, I wrote the initial draft of this article having only reviewed the information about the app on their website. I could sense that they don’t have any desire to compete with social media giants like Facebook, Snapchat, or Instagram. They aren’t trying to give people another Twitter like platform where they can make their worldly views known via witty memes that they stole from someone else. No, these guys are building something different. It was the realization that their app represents something larger than another money-making scheme that led me to write about them.
The Scene’s problem statement isn’t completely unlike what other social media apps have tried to solve: “We’ve experienced problems and fragmentation in our social lives that we were frustrated with.”. Like many great thinkers they saw an opportunity and a need. It’s the solution that is really remarkable and what drove them to create “the platform that will best facilitate the social experiences and movements of this era.” It’s the solution that separates the thinkers from the innovators.
Case in point, Zuckerberg’s problem was similar; the internet needed a better way to connect people i.e. he was frustrated with how he was (or wasn’t) connecting to people. His solution was Facebook, a way for people with school email addresses to connect with people that had online profiles. Fast forward 10 years and it was clear he solved that problem and more. Fast forward another 5 years and it’s clear that we have a whole new set of problems.
Naysayers will try to stack The Scene up against #Facebook, #Twitter, #Snapchat, #Instagram and other big names. They’ll even try to use the same arguments against The Scene as they did with the big names when they were new. They’ll say “yeah, it’s cool but how are you going to monetize it?” Shortly after they say that they are likely find themselves in a conference room with “the Bobs” trying to explain what it is they do there. (If you don’t understand this reference, for humanities sake, please go watch Office Space)
Meanwhile, the big-name social media networks have become petri dishes for narcissistic behavior. They are platforms for people to show the best version(s) of themselves. This phenomenon and the effects of it have been studied extensively. Scholars have linked the use of social media to depression, increases in narcissistic behaviors, isolation, and several other disorders. In short, the case has been made that the increased use of social media has led to a decrease in social connection.
Enter The Scene, a social media app with the designated focus of bringing people together. They aim to connect people who want to discover events with the people who are administrating them. Considering Covid-19, this might seem like bad timing. It might even seem like the business model is flawed now. But let’s be real, Covid-19 isn’t going to last forever. Zoom, FaceTime, and other online ways of meeting have emerged as stop-gaps. They are ways to cope with the situation at hand. The use of these services has increased and the ways that we communicate will remain changed long after a vaccine for Covid-19 is developed. That said, however modified our social gathers look, we will return to the days of being around people and enjoying it.
Spoiler Alert: People want to be with people.
This young and bright team, members of Generation Z, are creating an app that reflects, what I interpreted as, their generation’s desire to shift social media from a platform to get noticed by their peers to a platform to engage with their peers. A good portion of the Gen X (me) and Gen Y (also probably me) population has been consumed with getting online and getting noticed. We brought the rise of social media influencers, reality TV, YouTube celebrities, and so many other isolating and narcissistic endeavors. I am not suggesting that Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are going to the grave with MySpace but I do hope that the era of mass isolation is coming to a close. Replacing it will be Gen Z’s version of social media, platforms like The Scene.
Since my initial draft of this article the stories of Ahmaud Aubrey, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd have come to light and (re)ignited a level of unrest and activism that we should all hope will be sustained until change is realized. As we come to acknowledge that our society is in desperate need of empathy, we will also come to realize that empathy given through a screen isn’t enough. This is why it’s important to protest; one word said by 100 people can be more powerful than 1000 words said by one person. It’s good to show your support by making a post or changing your profile picture but REAL change, the type of change this country needs, requires us to show up in the physical sense. The change we need requires white people (me) to actively listen which can only be done in person. The Scene isn’t shying away from this, rather they see it as a responsibility and further justification why their app is needed. Typical of their generation they want to be involved and they want to be an active part of the solution.
“The Scene is a product of your environment. We have personalized The Scene for every user by giving them the ability to find or create their niche. With that foundation, we empower any organization, group, or individual to easily spearhead events and causes that they find impactful, and quickly share them with people who want to hear about them.”
Our society, or perhaps the world, doesn’t need another social media platform that serves individuals. We need something that centers on events and experiences. The shared experiences that create empathy. The shared events that drive change.
Tell me, if you’re reading this from another country or the perspective of another culture, can you relate to this? Do you agree?
If Instagram helped usher in the era of the individual-influencer, why wouldn’t we expect an app like The Scene to usher in the era of the collectively-empathetic?
In preparing for this article I communicated with Nicolas Walker, CTO at The Scene. He and the team provided some insight that I used in the article, but I think their full response warrants being added to the back end here; their passion is too contagious to ignore: