One of the most common complaints against technology these days is that it tends to push us apart just as much, if not more, than it brings us together. We look into our phones in the silent intervals at concerts rather than get to know the thousands of nearby strangers with whom we share musical taste. At the dinner table with family and friends, we stare downward at the endlessly scrolling screen rather than engage in heartfelt conversation—a gesture that seems to say: “my phone is more interesting than you are.”
And on social networks, the de-facto online meccas for “keeping in touch,” we often do little more than throw lip-service “likes” at each other’s lives. Even worse, it seems that for many these days, Facebook has become a place dominated by ego. A recent article at SocialNewsDaily referenced a University of Michigan study, saying: “The research determined that an obsession with social media is becoming less about connecting with others and more about vanity, egocentricity and self-promotion.”
We are the crafters of our public perception in these social outlets, and our egotistical bias always skews the story we tell the world about ourselves in a way that we think will somehow give us more attention, whether that means sympathy, envy, or an increased level of attraction from that sexual-interest we’ve been pursuing. But in this realm often dominated by ego and low-substance interaction, we lack one of the most important aspects of any meaningful relationship: vulnerability.
Village is a new app, available both on itunes and the google play store, that attempts to bring back the meaning to your social network by bringing back the active and vulnerable aspects of human relationships. Rather than building the biggest friends-list possible so that you can get as many tiny-thumbs as possible, all while passively keeping in touch with friends and family, Village wants you to build a meaningful collection of friends & family to keep up with regularly who will become your village.
Hows it work?
Once a day, Village will place you into a three minute video-chat with a random person in your village. The time limit keeps it from being too scary if you’re afraid of falling into an awkward conversation you can’t end, maybe for that mom of yours who tends to ramble or that story-telling uncle. And by being real-time and face-to-face, with no chance to prepare for who will answer, you’re dropped into an honest interaction that feels like you just bumped into someone on the street—an experience those at Village are calling “Spontaneous Opportunities to Connect.” And it’s these opportunities that bring back that sense of vulnerability that makes a relationship feel authentic, even if it’s just the ability to hear a laugh, the tone of a missed voice, or the tiny tweaks of facial gestures that define those who add meaning to your life.
I’ve personally used this app for several weeks now and am completely surprised by how just three minutes of catching up with an old friend or family member can deepen a relationship beyond the shallow glimpses we often get from most social networks. My sense of what’s happening in my loved-ones lives has taken on increased resolutions, and it’s even been a great way to find other opportunities as well, like when my friend says things like, “I didn’t know you were doing that. I should put you in touch with my friend so-and-so who’s into the same stuff. I’ll text you their number after our Village chat and maybe you two can work together.”
I’ll admit, my initial days on the app felt a bit lackluster due to how small my village was; ie: I always knew I’d be connected with the same few people. But as my Village grew from convincing more and more people to adopt the app, I’ve found that Village has been a wonderful addition to my life, delivering me the beautiful faces of friends and family all over the world who I normally wouldn’t have had a chance to see because of the effort required to coordinate a video-chat. But now that Village takes care of that effort for me, I no longer have an excuse; I just pick up the phone and it’s like I bumped shoulders on the street with my mother in Ohio, my brother in Beijing, or my dear friend in Oklahoma.
If you have some distant people you’d enjoy bumping into as well, you can grab the app for yourself at HelloVillagers.com.