TED Conversations

Hugo Amsellem

Host, TEDx Paris Universit

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Building an app to deepen relationships we have with people.

Sherry Turkle's talk really moved us, and two friends and I decided to do something about it:

Technology and social innovation has been focused on increasing the quantity of interactions and the quantity of the people you interact with.

We need to spend less time reading and liking statuses online and more time with our people in real life.

Why? Because for relationships to blossom we need to have real life interactions. So we decided to build something to make them better and simpler.

We are starting to build a mobile app whose sole purpose is to have a real life interaction with people you already know and that you want to see!

This is not a spammy thread to promote the app, because the app doesn't exist yet. We just want to meet and share with people that share the vision and wanting to be a part of it! Ping us on http://bit.ly/TEDpeople

Is a mobile app that facilitate face-to-face interactions (so we can increase the quality of relationships we have with people) something you'd love to see?

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    Oct 24 2012: We have an example in mind: It’s tuesday, 7pm. You get home from work, and feel like doing something tonight. You’ll probably end up sending 2 or 3 texts message to your closest friends to find out if they have anything planned, and if they feel like joining you for a drink. Chances are they might have already planned something, or they just don’t want to go out.

    So what happens is that you end up either going out with the same 3-4 people you are the closest with, or end up staying at home liking and commenting statuses.

    Why? Because it’s easy and not demanding/akward/scary to text close friends, you don’t feel that much turned down when they don’t want to hang out. Yet you might have 500 Facebook friends that might want to hang out. Okay, you may just want to see 30-40 of them, but you never do and often come up with a “Oh, we should totally hang out more often!”. Will you text them this tuesday evening to grab a drink with a few friends? No, it’s too demanding/akward/scary, whatever adjective you use to describe this fear.

    What we want technology to do and what we want to achieve here, is to create a comfort zone between you and those 30-40 people so you can overcome those fears and have easily more real life interactions.

    We are building this app because we never want to miss an opportunity to see the people we want to see, and deepen relationships we have with them.

    Is this a problem you already noticed?
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      Oct 24 2012: No, I did not notice the 'problem' you sketched here, as it does not feel 'demanding/akward/scary' to me to call up my friends to ask them out or invite them in for a meeting.

      What you are suggesting seems like an 'availability lighthouse signal' sent into a dark digital network of 'friends' who then may respond if their availability settings are switched on 'receiving' or 'I like to go out, but I just don't know with whom'...

      So what this app does, in my view, is actually preventing one on one communication, as it more or less just anonymously indicates that one wish to go out and that this one is just to lazy to directly contact their people, friends of his or her choice.

      Sending out 'I am available tonight, who is joining me' actually indicates that there is no vital communication going on in the network of friends of that person who is sending this signal, otherwise there was no need to do so.

      So I still don't see any advantage how this app would be able to deepen any relationship, as it does not eliminate the cause nor overcomes the reason of this 'isolation'.
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        Oct 24 2012: Thank you very much for your time, this is amazing to brainstorm on a TED forum on an idea created from a TED talk! This 'availability lighthouse signal' you are talking about, we want it to be directed to a network of people you want to see, people you care about, not a dark digital network. We think that we have too many 'friends' on facebook, and that this will not be the appropriate place to shout our availability. We want to create that space.

        This is great feedback you are giving us here Lejan, and as we are always changing stuff to create something meaningful, do you have an email address I can reach you on?
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          Oct 25 2012: It seems to me that our understanding of 'friends' is quite different, which probably is the reason, why I still see no valuable point in your 'app'.

          It also seems that you have no clear definition on this 'friend' term itself, as it changes in your descriptions quite often:

          a) '... people you already know and that you want to see'

          b) '... texts message to your closest friends'

          c) '... 500 Facebook friends'

          d) '... just want to see 30-40 of them'

          e) '... people you want to see, people you care about'

          In this, b) and e) is what I would consider my friends and as I wrote earlier, I need no app to get in touch with them.

          And even though I have no c) and d) type 'friends', out of 500, I would not consider them 'friends' at all and the use of this meaningful word in this context is nothing but corrosive to its original meaning.

          Type a) people could be seen either as 'friends' or 'acquaintances' which in respect of the closeness of relation, is different to me.

          So in your given ' Tuesday, 7pm' scenario, all my friends would be busy, as you described it, so how is your app gonna help me?

          The only thing it could do, as I pictured before, is to send out this 'availability lighthouse signal' to an online audience, which, as my friends are not available, has to be seen simply and only as 'Plan B' type of people in this specific context. However, those people, I don't know as well and this then is what makes it, as you described it, 'demanding/akward/scary' to contact them.

          Yet you claim your app to help 'relationships to blossom' and to have 'real life interactions', yet what it only does is to send an anonymous 'availability signal' into a radnom 'Plan B' audience which I actually don't really 'want to see' and 'care about', because, if I would, I would not consider it 'demanding/akward/scary' just to call and ask them.

          Again I am not getting the point and this app only appears as a transponder to spread a 'signal of desperation' into a second choice mob.
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          Oct 25 2012: P.S. You can follow the link in my profile 'Send Lejan an email' to contact me.
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      Oct 24 2012: Is this different from tweeting your friends to tell them you are at central park near the playground and you would love to see them?

      If your new component is that it "deepens" the relationship, you might want to describe in a small way what you think the app would contribute.

      No one questions the value of deepening relationships, but some might doubt that an app is the best or a valuable vehicle for that.

      You also might consider, as you and your friends may be very attached to your phones, whether there is a better way of doing this without phones. Try this exercise.
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        Oct 24 2012: Thanks again for your time Fritzie, thrilled to have that kind of thoughtful feedback! We basically think that people need to stop spending evenings commenting and liking statuses, and start hanging out more, not only with their best friends, but also more easily with people they want to see, but don't see that often because they are afraid to ask out (on a friendship level). Let's say you and I meet and spend a great time at a party. There are a lot of chance we won't hang out and grab a coffee afterwards, because asking out is awkward and demanding. We want to change that. Do you have any email address so I can privately and concretely explain the solution we thought of? Thanks again!
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          Oct 24 2012: I encourage you to do what you think is most effective to move your social group in the direction of more in person connection.

          I am in a generation that tends more toward in-person connections, whether in person or on the phone, than to "liking," but I can see that you believe that your app will assist the younger and more phone-bound set to detach from their phones. And doing this by phone obviously seems to you the best bridge for your target audience.

          The concept of target audience is key, I think, for commercial products or even free consumer products. As I am not on Facebook and do not have a smartphone, I would not be part of the audience whose views are highly relevant.

          I hope your idea proves valuable for your friends as a starting point.
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      Oct 24 2012: I have forwarded you an email via your TED profile with my thought on your APP idea.

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