The Internet didn’t invent narcissism. But arguably its most recent manifestation can be directly associated with the exponential growth of social networking sites over the past decade.
The web has seduced us with the instantaneous gratification of sound-bite sociality. Digital connections have in some instances trumped interpersonal bonds. But how did we get here?
In 2004, Tim O’Reilly proclaimed that the web had been reborn. Web 2.0 beckoned an Internet intrinsically social in nature, shaped by likes, comments and retweets.
Yet despite its countless benefits, we are increasingly confronting the uncomfortable reality of social networking as a double-edged sword. It fast became a breeding ground for narcissistic tendencies. Take the introduction of the word ‘selfie’ into the English dictionary as an example.
A social network for social good
It’s time for change. Enter Yonathan Parienti, a banker you may just like, with an idea for a social network for good.
He believes the Internet is missing something and ditched a successful career with banking giants JP Morgan and Bank of China to help kick-start change.
Currently in beta, Horyou describe themselves as an “action-oriented social network for social good.”
Users create their own profiles; populating it with news, actions, and projects they have taken part in. Activity on the platform span likes and comments, but not in the way you would expect. It brings users together, and transforms online interaction into humanitarian action, transforming lives across the globe.
Cinéma Numérique Ambulant for example. A series of mobile cinemas installed in 9 African countries that include Mali, Cameroon and Senegal screen “fiction films in areas where cinema does not exist.”
Or Green Bronx Machine, the not-for-profit helping build “healthy, equitable, and resilient communities through inspired education, local food systems, and 21st century workforce development.” They use Horyou’s platform as a means of sharing stories from local schools.
The unique infrastructure ensures that good percolates organically through the platform, splitting users into three categories: individuals, social entrepreneurs and organizations
The three are connecting to help breed a new Internet philosophy. And it couldn’t come at a better time.
The web as we know it is going through a period of intense change. Take for example the unearthing of Prism by Edward Snowden in 2013. It brought to light NSA and GCHQ spying that fundamentally changed the nature of our web surfing habits, highlighting vulnerability online.
Or the Internet of things, which promises a more interconnected, simplified and constantly switched on world. Just about every business is working out ways to integrate it into their operation.
Change is most certainly on the horizon and when asked what prompted him to start this social network for good, he pointed out “there’s a new generation who are trying to figure out what the Internet should be used for. Technology is in people’s lives but is it being used for the good that it should be?”
According to Pew Internet Research, 74% of all Internet users are members of at least one social networking site. This stat, when coupled with the headline “Americans now spend more time on Facebook than they do on their pets” seem to give Parienti’s words added significance.
But fear not. Horyou’s platform is heading in an unprecedented direction “where noble ideals become actions and social media is at the service of all.”
This seems like a tall order and its execution may well prove problematic, but it rallies a strong sentiment as to where the Internet should be going; towards an intrinsically humanitarian stance at the service of the people. Not the other way round.
This social network for good is a far cry from existing models, which prompt excessive interaction, treating us like serfs in an attempt to monetize data points. Scarcely providing any lasting benefit.
And with one in every seven minutes of online activity spent on Facebook, the cultural effect that social networking sites have had remain unparalleled in human history.
Marshall McLuhan made the point that we shape our tools, and that thereafter our tools shape us. The change we have seen in the past decade makes McLuhan’s statement somewhat appropriate.
Horyou is less a place for Charlie biting fingers and more a platform for getting things done. There’s an unmistakable importance placed on translating activity into concrete action:
“Technology can help society and it can accelerate processes. Yet despite this, it can never replace the virtues of human interaction. And it is this aspect that remains essential in the development of human relationships. It is this difficulty to overcome which is key for our social network for good, getting people to interact with one another on the ground.”
We can’t lose sight of the importance of separating the online from the offline. Earlier this week for example, San Francisco-based Melian Labs launched its MyTime app, promising to take the hassle out of making appointments by letting you book services from local businesses directly through the app.
When combined with the vast number of other apps and services that are meant to make your life easier, we begin to see a troubling pattern emerge — service based apps, whose single goal is taking the “friction” out of interacting with the the people around you.
As it stands, Horyou’s team of 60 spans 15 different nationalities, stationed in Geneva, Paris and New York, with plans to open three more offices in Morocco, Brazil and Italy. In Parienti’s own words “We will be having a significant year and hope to touch many lives.”
To find out more, take a look at its recently released app or read more about its annual SIGEF conference, held in Geneva.