Ever since Facebook became accessible to anyone over the age of 13 with a computer and internet access, it feels as if we’ve all been amassing “friends” by the dozens. As a result, we seem to have more and more information about people we only really kind of know. In an effort to remedy that and bring people closer to the friends they really do care about, a new category of social media apps has emerged called micro-networks.
“More and more, people are becoming disillusioned with huge social media networks full of ‘friends’ we barely know, advertisements, questionable data collection practices, and misinformation,” Diana Graber, founder of Cyber Civics tells Parentology. “Look for social media users to start gravitating towards smaller networks where they can connect with close friends, family, and those who share similar interests and hobbies.”
What Are Micro-Networks?
Micro-networks are smaller, more contained social networks that offer higher quality information about fewer, more important people. Sometimes referred to as micro-social media or microcommunities, they focus on connection, rather than popularity. Among these new networks, there’s Life360, Dex, Monaru, and one that seems to be rising to the top of the heap: Cocoon.
Billed as a “private space for the most important people in your life,” Cocoon automatically updates the activities of select groups of up to 12 people. Incorporating text, photos, location check-ins, and even weather, it keeps the group apprised of the comings and goings of all its members (worried moms, take note: they also have a function that allows you to track other participants’ flights). As their promotional materials put it, it’s like “the first few minutes of a catch-up phone call.”
Although Cocoon allows you to send emojis, there is, theoretically, no pressure to amass “likes” or approving comments, nor is there competition to collect more friends. Unlike Instagram, for example, the only influencers you’ll find here are the people in your group, thus the pressure is off to measure up to other users (unless you and someone in the group have some kind of rivalry going, of course). In addition to the general filtering of information, the lack of social competition is an enormous part of the appeal here.
While you can certainly share fun moments, the feel of Cocoon is geared more towards sharing important, more intimate information like where you are and what you’re doing, rather than distractions, like puppy videos.
Because it’s meant for closed groups, like families, it also allows younger users to participate. And since pictures and information stay within the confines of each “cocoon,” there’s no need to fret about where those private photos might end up. With no sound or vibrations, updates won’t interrupt participants as instant messages might and fellow users can only see information others in the group share voluntarily.
Of course, Cocoon isn’t the only micro-network out there. Another such micro-network is Basement. Basement allows up to 20 users in a single group. While Cocoon positions itself as more of a family-friendly app, Basement appears to be aiming for the friends market. One of its primary uses is the sending of funny memes to fellow group members (users can actually choose them from a meme feed).
Both apps are currently free and will theoretically leave users less vulnerable to security breaches than networking behemoths like Facebook. The plan is to make money through subscriptions, rather than ads.
Of course, all social media platforms were small once, and one has to wonder if it’s only a matter of time before these networks encounter the same issues as the big hitters (after all, Facebook groups are essentially micro-networks) or users start to feel pressure to belong to a Cocoon or Basement group of their own. Until then, however, these curated networks fill a void for those who aren’t yet comfortable being private in public.