Sometimes you don’t realize you ever had a problem until you have the solution. For a while now, without thinking about it much, most of my social networking has practically been the same experience as building a resume. Every post on Facebook, Twitter or Flickr was curated knowing that, besides my friends, hundreds of co-workers, clients, perspective employers and more would potentially be viewing. When Klout launched, it was the ultimate manifestation of the symptom I didn’t know I had: living in public had driven me to focus too much on the necessity of perception.
Then a few months ago, enter Path. A social network that defies everything that defines every other social network. Want people to see your content? Too bad, it’s only on your phone so there’s no place for most people to view it. Want to post a link you think will make you look smart? Too bad, you can only share original content. Want hundreds of friends + followers? Too bad, you can only have 150 (which is based on Dunbar’s law of the number of real relationships you can mentally manage).
What you can do? Share the song you’re listening to at that exact moment on your iPod, or the location of where you’re standing, or the thought you just had, or the moment you’re about to go to bed. Stuff that only a few people care about. Stuff that you have to create with your phone, the most intimate application you have, by yourself. Stuff that no one will see. And did I mention Path was created by one of the first Facebook employees, after he helped build what is now the most public platform on the planet?
But Path, a mobile only social network defined as much by its limitations as its capability, is an absolute pleasure to use. It’s the antidote to the sickness of public sharing. It’s designed with precise care to enforce an intimate experience between you and the people you care about. It strips away the fear of something not being smart enough for the pleasure of knowing that you shared a moment with the people that matter. It provides a freedom from the public I’d forgotten I wanted, and as such has become the social network I want to use more than any other every single day.
In exchange for the ability to make you famous, Path focuses on making you happy (in fact, their internal motto is something like “design happiness”). When you share something on Path you see the faces of every friend who looks at it, giving you instant viseral feedback. It’s easy for people to smile, frown, heart or gasp at your content. Everything is plotted on a timeline of your day, giving you a journalistic feeling. If you connect Nike+ to Path and share your work-outs, when someone smiles at your run on Path, you hear cheers in your headphones like your friends are there with you.
With Path, I no longer worry about credibility because there’s no way to earn it. Instead, I focus on sharing personal moments, and the reward is a closer relationship with the people I’m connected to. It feels a lot like what social networking was probably originally meant to be. And it’s really enjoyable again, in a way much of my experience with Twitter and Facebook isn’t. Thanks Dave Morin, for learning to build great things at Facebook and then turning around and building exactly the opposite but better.
This content is cross-posted from Kevin’s personal blog.