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The single-person social network is a strangely beautiful thing

The single-person social network is a strangely beautiful thing


Social apps are sometimes more useful without friends

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I’m the kid who never learned how to play with other kids. My cousins lived in the big city, and the majority of my schoolmates were in another town, so I ended up developing single-player versions of most board games. All it took was a little bit of imagination and a healthy disregard for the social norms imposed by the default game rules. Now I’m living in the constantly connected world of social apps, and, wouldn’t you know it, I’m still coming up with single-person varieties of experiences that are supposed to be shared. And I think more people should give it a try.

The first rule of social apps is that you can never have enough friends. Let's break it.

The first rule of social networking apps is that you can never have enough connections. I once gave LinkedIn a fake name and an old email address just to read an article posted to it, and it continues to dredge up the most ancient (and fleeting) acquaintances of my life. Remember the help desk clerk from college whom you emailed exactly once? LinkedIn does, and it really wants you to network up. Twitter is the same way, with the initiation procedures for setting up its mobile app designed to get you to accidentally follow a bunch of people. And if you use Google+ with only a few friends, you’ll get an interstitial ad urging you to round up more humans.

All of this social recruitment feels exhausting, but you can work your way past it. Disable a few notifications, decline a few "but you’ll be lonely!" dialogs, and you can begin using the apps to your own purposes. Here’s the thing: social apps happen to be the most versatile and capable mobile software we have available. We take it for granted that we can post instant updates and upload images from anywhere, and that we can return to those archives from anywhere else. The first step to that combination, which we might call the Snapchat component, is indeed easy, however keeping an organized and comprehensive history of everything you’ve posted is a costly affair. Not everyone has the funds for vast server farms to host your countless image and video uploads for free. Social apps usually do.

This crystallized for me this past weekend when I set out to find a good app for keeping a food journal. I don’t want to lose weight or gain muscle, I don’t want others to judge the healthfulness of my meals or estimate my calorie intake — I just want to compile a photo archive. For my own gratification and no one else’s. That immediately disqualified pretty much every dedicated food app out there. They all try to do and track too much, and most don’t have the finances to maintain a free image archive online. Evernote Food has a piddling 60MB monthly upload limit for free accounts, meaning I’d have to either pay for a subscription or starve for half the month. Other dedicated apps degrade image quality to keep things manageable.

I’m using a social app completely antisocially and benefiting from it

And then my search led me to Path. Path puts a time stamp on every post and lets me annotate with the list of ingredients. It’s perfect for what I want to do. I only want a simple visual history and, provided I don’t let anybody in on my Path activities, it’s the cleanest and simplest way of doing it. That’s right, I’m using a social app completely antisocially and benefiting from it. I guess these are the perks of not reading the instructions.

A friendless account on Instagram, Facebook, or Google Photos (née Google+) would probably work just as well. The advantage of these established names is that I know they’ll keep my photos backed up and safe over the long term. Twitter’s another good example: just protect your tweets from external eyes and you have a cross-platform, rapid-fire note-taking app.

Businesses have long used social networks in quirky and unusual ways to project their brands to a wider audience. What I’m urging is that we, the users, start to think a little less linearly, too. The race for retweets and favorites can be addictive, but it’s not the only application for these powerful apps at our disposal. If we break a few of the implicit rules, we can fashion out our own, truly personal timelines, taking advantage of the services that more often exploit us and our pseudo-social activity. Give it a shot. Take the social out of social apps and see how much is left. You might be pleasantly surprised.

Today’s Storystream

Feed refreshed 5:33 PM UTC Striking out

Andrew Webster5:33 PM UTC
Look at this Thing.

At its Tudum event today, Netflix showed off a new clip from the Tim Burton series Wednesday, which focused on a very important character: the sentient hand known as Thing. The full series starts streaming on November 23rd.

The Verge
Andrew Webster4:28 PM UTC
Get ready for some Netflix news.

At 1PM ET today Netflix is streaming its second annual Tudum event, where you can expect to hear news about and see trailers from its biggest franchises, including The Witcher and Bridgerton. I’ll be covering the event live alongside my colleague Charles Pulliam-Moore, and you can also watch along at the link below. There will be lots of expected names during the stream, but I have my fingers crossed for a new season of Hemlock Grove.

Andrew Webster1:05 PM UTC
Looking for something to do this weekend?

Why not hang out on the couch playing video games and watching TV. It’s a good time for it, with intriguing recent releases like Return to Monkey Island, Session: Skate Sim, and the Star Wars spinoff Andor. Or you could check out some of the new anime on Netflix, including Thermae Romae Novae (pictured below), which is my personal favorite time-traveling story about bathing.

A screenshot from the Netflix anime Thermae Romae Novae.
Thermae Romae Novae.
Image: Netflix
Jay PetersSep 23
Twitch’s creators SVP is leaving the company.

Constance Knight, Twitch’s senior vice president of global creators, is leaving for a new opportunity, according to Bloomberg’s Cecilia D’Anastasio. Knight shared her departure with staff on the same day Twitch announced impending cuts to how much its biggest streamers will earn from subscriptions.

Tom WarrenSep 23
Has the Windows 11 2022 Update made your gaming PC stutter?

Nvidia GPU owners have been complaining of stuttering and poor frame rates with the latest Windows 11 update, but thankfully there’s a fix. Nvidia has identified an issue with its GeForce Experience overlay and the Windows 11 2022 Update (22H2). A fix is available in beta from Nvidia’s website.

External Link
If you’re using crash detection on the iPhone 14, invest in a really good phone mount.

Motorcycle owner Douglas Sonders has a cautionary tale in Jalopnik today about the iPhone 14’s new crash detection feature. He was riding his LiveWire One motorcycle down the West Side Highway at about 60 mph when he hit a bump, causing his iPhone 14 Pro Max to fly off its handlebar mount. Soon after, his girlfriend and parents received text messages that he had been in a horrible accident, causing several hours of panic. The phone even called the police, all because it fell off the handlebars. All thanks to crash detection.

Riding a motorcycle is very dangerous, and the last thing anyone needs is to think their loved one was in a horrible crash when they weren’t. This is obviously an edge case, but it makes me wonder what other sort of false positives we see as more phones adopt this technology.

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Ford is running out of its own Blue Oval badges.

Running out of semiconductors is one thing, but running out of your own iconic nameplates is just downright brutal. The Wall Street Journal reports badge and nameplate shortages are impacting the automaker's popular F-series pickup lineup, delaying deliveries and causing general chaos.

Some executives are even proposing a 3D printing workaround, but they didn’t feel like the substitutes would clear the bar. All in all, it's been a dreadful summer of supply chain setbacks for Ford, leading the company to reorganize its org chart to bring some sort of relief.

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Once again, the US has fallen behind in transportation — call it the Bussí gap. A hole in our infrastructure, if you will.

External Link
Jay PetersSep 23
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Sundar Pichai addressed employees’ questions about Google’s spending changes at an all-hands this week, according to CNBC.

“Maybe you were planning on hiring six more people but maybe you are going to have to do with four and how are you going to make that happen?” Pichai sent a memo to workers in July about a hiring slowdown.

In the all-hands, Google’s head of finance also asked staff to try not to go “over the top” for holiday parties.