The Social Media Report #18
Has Dispo discovered the secret to a healthier relationship with social media?
In this week’s edition we take a look at Dispo, the photo app turned social network, and why it could hold the secret to a healthier relationship with social media. We also have as usual my must-read articles of the week.
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One Friday night in February, a flurry of Tweets began discussing new social network Dispo, available only on Testflight and only to just a small number of Alpha testers to try out. After reading up on it I could see that this was a social networking version of an existing app, so after contacting a few of its early users I managed to get my hands on an invite. I was instantly hooked.
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and the social media landscape has been doing nothing but flattering itself for almost a decade. October 2012 was the last time something really new and exciting launched, in the form of Snapchat, which eschewed in a new way of sharing and consuming social media, paving the way for Stories, which are now one of the most popular parts of Instagram, and used widely across Facebook, Twitter and even LinkedIn and WhatsApp.
What Stories did was create a new alternative to the News Feed, which had become the de facto way of using social media: posts in chronological order, from people you follow, on your homepage. Stories, skipped through from left to right, last just one day, and relevance determines ordering. Using Stories was compelling when it was new, but before long, every major social network was copying every other, and Stories became ubiquitous.
Copying features hasn’t been social media’s only problem. As user behaviour on most mainstream social networks is rewarded with likes and follows, social media has increasingly become addictive. Just watch The Social Dilemma and you’ll see what I mean. As the algorithm kicks in to engage us more deeply, we see social media causing depression, anxiety, mental illness and stress - and much worse too.
It’s not just about the mental impact of the constant stream of perfect images that we see in our feed, it’s also about the pressure of capturing that perfect shot, the agonising over captions, hashtags and trending topics. People I interviewed when researching my TED talk on this topic told me how they are coming off social media altogether because of the effect it was having on their health.
Enter Dispo. At first I thought it was simply a great new way of taking and sharing photos. But I think Dispo will be one of, if not the app that makes social media fun again, and it’s not just because it takes fun photos. Dispo diffuses stresses of social media, and that’s what people will love about it. “No editing, no hashtags,” and no feed or stories.
So, just how does it work and why does Dispo matter to the future of social media?
Dispo is the brainchild of David Dobrik, and the fundamental premise of the app is that it takes photos in the style of a disposable camera. Simple as that. David noticed the surging trend of using disposable cameras and sought to create a digital, social version. When you use Dispo, you’ll see the aperture is small, the flash is default on, the filter is 90s retro, and you don’t get to see your photos until 9am tomorrow. This at first can feel somewhat annoying, but stick with it and it will change how you take and share pics.
This user experience creates a low-stress habit. Not seeing your photos instantly once you’ve taken them changes how you experience moments. You don’t stop to share your photo to a story, to edit or re-take that shot so it’s Insta-perfect, to upload somewhere, to write a caption, all that hassle, and so Dispo’s interface makes social media less about sharing ‘what’s happening right now’ and more about living in the moment. It’s simply fun and stress-free to use Dispo. Live social media, to be honest, is pretty high intensity, whereas Dispo captures the moment without taking over.
Why Dispo matters to the fabric of social media: key to Dispo’s future isn’t actually the app’s principal concept of emulating the disposable camera. It’s the way you share. Enter, Rolls.
Your front page on Dispo isn’t Stories or a News Feed, like Instagram, Twitter or Facebook. The app opens to camera. It’s first and foremost a photo taking app, not a photo sharing app. But the next page you navigate to is Rolls, which are predominantly private photo albums. You can make your Rolls public, but the view of Rolls in the app is mainly a view of your own pics. You can also make Rolls collaborative, and you can follow others’ Rolls, so you can see your friends’ photos in amongst you own, and that’s when things start to get interesting. Essentially, your social network is shared albums, with no filters and no hashtags. Not a News Feed and not Stories.
I feel passionately that social media needs to be a force for good in society today, to help build mental and physical health and safety, amongst a lot of other things social media needs to get better, and I feel that Dispo has struck on something that will help get us there.
I’m @drew on Dispo. To be able to download the app, if you need an invite let me know here.
My must reads from this week
Here are the stories that I have been reading this week.
Could Dispo make social media fun again? Vogue asks the all important question.
Dispo asks you to live in the moment: Protocol digs into the background to Dispo and its founder Dobrik.
Are disposables the future of photo sharing? NY Times looks at the style of Dispo and its founding team.
TikTok launches European safety council: much-welcomed move to deal with child safety online.
Interview with person behind trending topics: a Q&A on One Zero with Twitter's Joanna Geary on how her team decides which trends to summarise.
Tesla ‘social platform’ to launch: car maker closes its help forums as a result.
An audio creator consultancy has launched for Clubhouse: Audio Collective covered in NY Times.
The future of NFTs for creators: new revenue sources, as creators sell off their content as NFTs.
Screenshots of Fireside come to the surface: the app is apparently a mix of Clubhouse and Spotify.
Facebook to lift its political ad ban: a new process is already up and running.
How digital tracing is being used by certain U.S. states: a look by xx at surveillance apps Shadowtrack and SmartLink.
Reuters report on cyber attacks from Russia and China: a criminal investigation is ongoing about a hack of the European Medicines Agency last year.
How the cognitive elite are using tech to protect our future brains: a fantastic feature from this weekend’s Times on Saturday featuring the efforts of Elon Musk, Peter Thiel and Sam Altman on preserving our consciousness.
How small delivery robots are being allowed on paths: Pennsylvania to count small delivery robots as pedestrians - thousands are already “out there”.
It’s my company Battenhall’s 8th birthday on March 8th. That has flown by.
The Social Media Report is written by Drew Benvie, founder & CEO of Battenhall, The Drum, CIPR and GDXA’s social media consultancy of the year 2020.