Loneliness and our new product
Loneliness is deep-seated in our very existence: this is one of the fundamental propositions in life. The feeling of loneliness plagues us starting at the very moment we are born until the very last day. We as a species are social animal in nature: every one of us has a community to which we belong, and we rely on each other for our existence. We have evolved to rely on others and these relationships to survive, therefore, it is intrinsically impossible to become free of this feeling called loneliness.
Of course there are temporary fixes in order for us to do away with the such a feeling: technologies that decrease our lonely feelings, and methodologies we can use to feel closer to others. Those are, to reiterate, merely temporary fixes. Essentially we have been and we are lonely still, and this poses an interesting challenge for all of us from the standpoint of logic, philosophy, spirituality, psychology, industrial structure, technological innovation, and biology. This is a long standing battle between us and loneliness.
Also, we do not truly know what would happen if we were to get rid of this feeling altogether. Loneliness in itself might propel social and biological development, and I dare say, doing away with it entirely might not be in our best interest in terms of enhancing productivity and chances for survival. This makes it difficult for us to deal with loneliness.
This feeling of loneliness continues to be the birthplace of numerous innovations, industries, and creativity. Many monetary transactions have been spawned and services exchanged because of this, and we can say that having this feeling has positively contributed to the development of our society at large. Therefore, it is debatable whether or not trying to overcome the feeling of loneliness is such a good idea to begin with.
At any rate, it is undeniable that how we handle this loneliness and how we go about solving it are certainly one of the most impotant agenda of IT and intellectual industries of today. It is also evident that this is an area of high importance and an innovative trend waiting to “happen,” just like search and social network did before.
Thanks to these “search” and “social network” trends that did happen, we are now able to search information whenever we want, and manage the information we obtained through the search however we want to. Yet, we are still unable to break free from the dark grip of loneliness.
Rather, the grip is getting stronger and stronger — in other words, the more information we can obtain via search and the more relationships we can easily manage via social networking, the more aware we become of the existence of loneliness. This is ironic, yet it is true.
We at Doki Doki want to present a new worldview shared via a worldwide empathety-sharing network.
And the product we are launching this year is a tool that enables us to bring about such a worldview. Naturally, this means our aim by launching this product is to try to answer the follwoing question: “how can we overcome the feeling of loneliness?”
Our “BABY” application is the first step towards answering this question. It manifests our effort to look at loneliness from a completely different perspective so that we can have a better handle on it. The idea behind it is rather simple: it is like a phone with which you can talk to anyone whenever we want.
We talk, everyday, with someone. This is a very simple, primitive act driven by our an innate desire to talk to someone, anyone, really. Our biggest challenge is to design application that fulfills such rudimentary human desire in a comfortable manner, with ease, and without stressing ourselves out too much.
Again, we humans talk. We talk to solve problems, to be social, to belong to a community, to maintain our relationship with others etc. Although communication media throughout history has changed a lot — from hand-written letters to emails, television broadcasting to video streaming, press report to image sharing, and the list is growing aspace — voice communication has always been a major part of our daily communication. The act of talking remains to be one of the most powerful social tools and media that have survived to this day.
The internet has changed the social infrastructure a lot. The infrastructure that the very act of “talking” is build and relying upon — social relationships and networks — has undergone a significant change in recent years. While this aspect of social infrastructure keeps evolving, the act of talking itself has not changed much. We have the tools and information technologies to connect everyone at the global scale, yet the act itself has not been updated at all.
Let us put this into the context of telephone: today we can talk to anyone on the phone IF we know their contact information in advance. In other words, we cannot talk to a total stranger on the phone. In the real, non-digital world, it is not quite uncommon for two complete strangers to engage in a casual conversation, and we often turn to such strange encounters to solve various issues we face everyday.
For instance, asking for directions: asking about the weather: engaging in a small talk on the street. These are the prominent examples of connecting with someone by initiating a conversation, and I bet it happens a lot in our everyday lives. Even when we collaborate with others mainly through digital channels, the first encounter often takes place in the real world, then the real world conversations help us build rapport and connect with one another.
Our product hypothesis that we are putting to the test is, therefore, “a couple of two total strangers can connect with each other immediately via a phone conversation.”
If we can in fact validate our hypothesis and create an environment where people, people who do not necessarily “know” each other, can open up and talk more freely, we can increase the chances for mutual cooperation. Furthermore, we may be able to discover a completely new approach to problem-solving: an approach by talking to someone before doing anything else. This is entirely different from other aforementioned approaches, namely, search (an approach to problem-solving by accessing information) and social networking (an approach by digitally managing human relationships.)
To put things into perspective, I believe this new approach has to do with the fact that we have reached two epochal points in history.
First and most important point is, simply put, social connections have become completely commodified.
The second point is the fact (and realization thereof) that we are getting more and more connected, as brethren, no matter who you are and where you are, you are a part of a large network connecting all of us. Retrace your social network path, and it would lead you to a person, one single link, a starting point eventually.
I think this means in the near future, we will live in a society where we understand and sympathize with a total stranger without spending a lot of time trying to build rapport or making social adjustments with the beforehand. No blocks to getting to know people, and people cooperate more naturally and spontaneously with one another — it won’t be an impossible fairy tale any more.
As Facebook’s penetration rate gets higher and higher, we are getting a clearer view on what needs to be addressed next: how can we connect with people we have no connection to begin with? Wouldn’t it be nice if saying hello to a stranger on the street will instantly establish closeness? That future is not too far ahead.
Tinder was ground-breaking indeed: all you need was geographic location and age information to get to know somone of the opposite sex nearby you. Sophisticated, complex algorithms and parameters (as Zoosk and other matchmaking apps often have) were not necessary at all. In this sense, Tinder is setting foot in uncharted territories of social networking.
The new worldview we are trying to present with our BABY application will offer a new experience: in this new world, a post-Facebook world in which social network has been commodified completely, people are connecting with people with much less procedural steps and premises.
Does that mean we can do away with the feeling of loneliness entirely? Not really — I do not think that is possible. Besides, like I said, saying ado to the feeling altogether will create other types of problems. It might kill creativity that only being alone can inspire.
With that said, though, I must fight against this lonely feeling that is eating me alive and continue on developing this product so that we can put our hypothesis to the test. I believe in my view, and someone must strive to realize a world free of invisible walls between us, even if it does not necessarily make us 100% lonely-proof.