Why I Made a Social Network for Myself

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Chat with VIVID on Messenger @vividbot

I designed a chatbot named VIVID (@vividbot). In my opinion, it’s the best chatbot on Facebook’s Messenger platform. How can I make such a bold claim? Because I’ve played it.

VIVID gives you challenges to complete in real-life. You can see how others put their twist on these “dares,” and send your recorded dares to friends in a single tap.

It’s hard to convince users to do things in real-life. That’s okay though — because I made VIVID for myself.

Every social media platform gives you the impression that you’re engaging with people via follows, likes, shares, and comments. This creates a cycle of consumption and more consumption, seeing others’ highs, and comparing them to your lows, a bit of insecurity, a bit of inspiration, but nothing tangible. It’s not real. When it’s your turn to share, you often lose sight of the moments being shared, but rather focus on the reception it will get. You can read about how social media has made us narcissists, or how social media can make us feel lonelier, but you probably don’t need to look further than your own experiences to understand.

VIVID is unique because it helps you enjoy experiences in real-life. Instead of perpetuating social abstraction, isolation, facades, VIVID promotes social interaction. It’s a hard goal to achieve, with some deeply rooted behaviours to overcome.

What if the 2 hours you spent on social media each day — on Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, was spent creating memories or meeting new people? Well, here’s my experience doing that with VIVID:

VIVID is an amazing way to meet people.

This is the number one reason why the bot is amazing. Many of the challenges in VIVID require you to interact with others and be social, and it allows you to meet new people with very little friction. For example, my brother and I were in LA and we went to a Migos concert. We arrived early, and had a few hours to kill before Migos came on. While at the bar, we were casually chatting with a young man, and discovered he graduated from Cornell (Computer Science), had just moved to California and was working at Snapchat. After asking him a bunch of questions, we went to the smoker’s balcony to show him VIVID. The first challenge that came up was “Spin in circles 5x then try to walk!”. So, I said hello to a really nice girl, who was super excited to do the challenge with me. As I fell to the ground, laughter ensued.

Next was “Best Selfie” so we went up to two girls asking if they’d like to join in on the fun. They had seen the challenge we just did and were intrigued. They agreed to play, under one condition — we had to give them a joint. The three of us played along as if we had one (we didn’t), and got them to do the selfie challenge. We chatted for a bit afterwards, and abruptly walked away. As they walked back inside, they gave us the middle finger for lying about the joint! Two guys saw this and made funny remark about it, and we explained what we were up to. We had a great conversation — one was a software developer, and the other a biomedical engineer. They wanted to try VIVID too — the next challenge was “Take someone’s food”, so we staged one of them taking the other’s drink, starting a pretend fight, but accidentally bumped into the people behind us, starting a real fight. Once we explained it was a prank, it was all laughter.

Then, we all went in to party.

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The unlikely squad. (The Novo, LA)

Moral of the story? VIVID turned 1.5 hrs of idle time into fun and laughter with new friends.

How? Because VIVID enables you to do the things you otherwise would not. It’s a safety net. You can engage with people with a purpose, and share fun experiences. I was surprised to see that 90% of people I asked to do a challenge with me agreed to do so.

An example of a time VIVID let me do what I otherwise wouldn’t is when I met will.i.am. What would have typically been a short greeting and a photo, became a conversation with Will about technology, and a video clip of our challenge.

#GumChallenge with will.i.am at the 2017 TRANS4M Gala!

1. Meeting two dancers from Belgium and Switzerland at Venice Beach!

2. Getting a couple to bond with a secret handshake!

3. Three girls from different countries that all spoke French!

4. Music video with my roommates that had us laughing for half an hour!

5. A slightly more fun walk to class!

6. Learning about a passerby’s shoes.

7. Scare cam!

VIVID works because, as a bot, it has an extremely low barrier to entry. It’s instantly available to 1 billion active users.

VIVID works because it doesn’t need a community — you can complete challenges and have great experiences with or without others.

VIVID works because it acts as a social lubricant, and is enough reason to approach others, have fun in public, and act outside your comfort zone.

I made a social network for myself. But I’ll tell you what I want VIVID to be if others use it.

I want each challenge to be an opportunity to brighten your day, an opportunity to laugh, and an opportunity to connect with someone. I want other VIVIDs to inspire creativity, and inspire action. I want completing a challenge to feel more satisfying than pressing “like”. I want sharing your challenge to be a way of extending an invitation to create vivid memories.

It’s not easy to put yourself out there, but I think it’s insanely fun. Which is why we say, “Be brave. Be VIVID.”

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Chat with VIVID on Messenger @vividbot

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