Or what makes for a good social app experience?

Social media is in vogue again in our circles, particularly in the face of the traction we're seeing on Warpcast. Something is brewing. Sentiment on traditional social platforms is at an all time low. All of this has got me thinking: let's put aside the debate on open networks vs. silod applications; in 2024 what makes for a good social app experience?

I wasn't around as a builder during the original push towards social, but I was a user. I remember posting on FB and Twitter neurotically during middle and high school. And the feeling of using those products was not addictive or toxic, which of course is the prevailing feeling while using those apps now. It was small, fun, playful, and new.

I went back through my phone to thoroughly review the apps I spent most time on last year. With one exception my experience on most social apps is neither fun nor playful. That exception is Letterboxd. It's a simple social app for people who love movies. I watched and reviewed 60+ movies last year and hope to increase my numbers to 100+ this year. It's mid February and I'm at 15 so far.

Before Letterboxd my movie watching experience was pretty crappy. Maybe you'll find this playbook familiar. On a Saturday night if I wanted to watch a movie I didn't really know where to begin. Maybe I'd google for Top 100 Movies and comb through a bunch of lists that I had already seen before. Or maybe I'd go into my notes app and search through that random list of movies that I'd occasionally remember to update. Or worse, maybe I'd log in to Netflix or HBO and scroll for something that caught my eye. It was chaotic and usually left me watching something uninspired. I rarely finished a movie I started using this route.

Letterboxd is a really simple app that has changed my movie watching experience. I now watch more movies and engage more deeply with them. First and foremost, it's a way to track a movie watchlist and keep a diary of movies that you've watched. So it forces you to think while watching a movie. It forces you to pay more attention to the things you connected with, liked, disliked, felt, or didn't feel. In the words of Fred Wilson, it provided me with single user utility despite being a social system. And what I enjoy the most is the social component. I can keep tabs on what my friends are watching and reviewing. It's useful for gathering inspiration on movies I should be watching from the people whose taste I trust. And it's a way for me to engage or even talk shit with friends about their reactions to movies I either love, hate, or feel ambivalent about.

In contrast to other social media apps, my circle of friends on Letterboxd is quite pitiful. I have 21 followers and follow 27 people. But it's also one of the things I like most about it. It makes the internet feel small and for me there is zero noise. While most of the big social apps push broad engagement, Letterboxd creates deeper engagement. I am drawn to that.

Maybe there's a repeatable truth here?

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