Sunday, February 19, 2012

Is it far-fetched to think that connecting with strangers could become a major internet trend in the future?

I’ve been working for over two years now on making a foray into social media — I have no technical background and I’m self-funded (and it will stay that way for quite a while, until I have a clue what I’m doing); and so I’m currently “too small to fail” while I keep ramping up my knowledge.
It occurred to me some time ago that technology and the internet could be used to leverage friendships in a new way, quite possibly.
Up to this point, the more prominent social networks have been designed to connect you to existing friends, and not so much to introduce you to new ones. Try to add contacts you don’t know on Facebook and Linkedin and see how long it takes for restrictions to get imposed on your account.
My take on the matter is that just a little over 20 years ago, we realistically couldn’t have been connected with people globally – the internet gave us that. Back then, you just couldn’t pick up the phone and call someone halfway around the globe and start an ongoing conversation unless you were willing to pay ungodly sums in long-distance rates, or patiently wait for snail mail to arrive.
Now we can connect.
Then the web became searchable, and eventually social. Now it is the norm to manage existing relationships online.
That’s quite the leap.
But here’s a crazy thought: what if the only logical place for the trend to lead to would be more social discovery? And I’m bending the definition a little here to mean more precisely discovering new people. I personally can easily envision that we could potentially become progressively more at ease with interacting with ‘strangers’, and if I’m right, it won’t even seem creepy to do so (within reason of course).
Anyhow, as I began to look for practical ways to test this hypothesis, I began to envision a service — a website — that would allow a user to identify other individuals from anywhere globally, who would absolutely “click” platonically with this user, should both parties begin to communicate.
Anyone who has had “true best friends” might appreciate the question I started to pose, which is, “How many people are there in the world which would or could become your best friend, if you were only lucky enough to cross paths with them?”
Pondering over this question for some time opened my mind to the fact that realistically there could be several, if not many individuals, anywhere in the world which could significantly alter my life for the better if there existed a service which would somehow help me circumvent geographical and other barriers to discovering them.
While I fully appreciated the utopia in this, which may be plain impossible to realize, I’ve nonetheless created [Note: I’ve since pivoted my efforts for the time being, and that site still exist, but at] as a first effort in this direction.
It falls far short of this goal, in my opinion — at least for now; however, it is not without its merits.
A few hundred users so far have taught me that the idea has its followers. While there are many who do not want such a service, there are plenty who do, especially to meet new people near them to do specific activities with. has the ability to automatically suggest new connections based on criteria set by the user. By configuring the settings based on the user’s preferences, the site’s algorithms go to work and figure out which users are like-minded.
It definitely is not intended as a dating site.
The issue currently, of course, is that there are not enough users to make the service useful.
Hopefully, I’ll be clever enough to get the site past this hurdle and have a chance to put my theories to the hard test.