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At their best, social platforms exist as a way to connect people to ideas, content and one another. However, for large platforms, it has become less about altruistic functions than advertising and data collection. In “Why private micro-networks could be the future of how we connect,” MIT writer, Tanya Basu, explores a new social media platform concept.

“Micro-networks,” described by Kate Eichhorn, associate professor at the New School and author of The End of Forgetting: Growing Up With Social Media, as the second wave of post-Facebook social media. Micro-networks are in response to an era that is filled with an awareness of large platform practices. Micro-networks encourage participating in small curated groups — it’s about connecting, rather than acquiring likes, followers, or the crafting of a digital persona. With micro-networks, users can pursue smaller, more personalized exchanges.

One example of a micro-network is Cocoon, an app for the “most special relationships, designed to keep you close no matter where you are.” The app supports groups of up to12 members.

Here’s how micro-networks can further improve connections:

  1. Solve unwanted overlapping – Not all content is appropriate for each social media contact; however, large platforms like Facebook and Instagram do very little in the way of content distribution-discernment. A micro-network, like Cocoon, addresses this issue by keeping all content that is posted within a group. The app offers a home screen feed, updates of when users last signed on, message capabilities with an associated thread to keep conversations contained; in addition, media like photos, videos, and links that are shared in a limited-access “vault.”
  2. User-friendly privacy and data practices – Facebook data policies can be a huge detractor for many users. Micro-networks are typically free but are looking to future revenue models that are based on subscriptions rather than advertisements so that data is not sold to third party networks.
  3. Enhance authentic content – Without the worry of peer judgment and “likes,” content is more genuine and less curated.

While the longevity of apps and new technologies is hard to predict, the core concepts behind micro-networks have real staying power: autonomy, authenticity and familiar exchanges. New platforms educate users and bring issues to light that become pervasive forces for cultural change. According to Eichhorn, micro-communities are an idea that has the power to persist.