Daniel Barabasi | Wednesday, October 1, 2014
Faded-out portrait of air conditioner unit on beige wall. “Fml” superimposed over ceiling fan. Closeup of “Utz ‘The Crab Chip'” label. Blurred red maple leaf screaming “I’m not sure anyone I know uses this app.”
These are not samples of contemporary poetry or revolutionary MoMA pieces. They are a few of the images I found this afternoon while browsing uMention, the latest anonymous social media hype. The app combines the anonymity of Yik-Yak, the swiping of Tinder and the immediate image sharing of Snapchat into a rather glitchy, but entertaining package. Essentially, take a picture, edit it a bit, add a caption, then share it with anyone else with the app nearby.
I downloaded the app while avoiding a lab writeup and became enamored with the idea on my long trudge back to Carroll. Passing by D6, I snapped a picture of the dark, empty parking lot, threw on a caption about being alone and spent the rest of my journey preparing myself for the Internet’s merciless critique of a new user.
Upon reestablishing wifi connection, I found 21 favorites on my photo – the highest of any in the area, as far as I could see. My spirits lifted. Perhaps I had hope as an artist. Do I really need medical school?
Yet, before I could call the registrar to switch to Arts and Letters, my soul was crushed. There, next to my photo with a blooming 25 likes, was a scantily clad young lady with 2,000 likes. Downtrodden about the state of society, I returned to my pre-lab preparation.
Nevertheless, I couldn’t stay too far away from uMention. There’s something addictive about having a window into a new, unknown person’s life with each swipe. Each photo shows off what is important to the user in the moment. Of course, this gives rise to the occasional offering of sexual favors or the classic “cute kitty” fascination, but others reward uMention prowlers with freshly developing art or mental states.
The functioning of the app – at least the Android version – remains rather jumpy. One of the tabs offers a view at “my stuff,” which I assumed would be the status of pictures I’ve posted in the past. Instead, the page recommends I invite my friends to join. A great marketing practice, but I’m more interested in the momentary ego boost.
On the other hand, the conversations tab is entirely redundant, as it opens up the conversations menu accessible by tapping the icon in the top-right corner of any page. Furthermore, the main feed does not notify the user if it runs out of new pictures; rather, it either falls into an endless circle of death or repeats previously viewed items.
The possible benefits of uMention outweigh the temporary glitches, however. It could be a great way to share awesome experiences with a broader group of people or get feedback on something you’re working on – just please don’t make it the new ND Makeouts or a second Tinder.
So, contribute to the culture. See strawberries at NDH? Grab a few and then post a pic on uMention. Hump-day camel spotting? uMention it. Climbed main building? I’d love to see that. Found out that Pop-Tarts hydrate? I’m actually not sure this is true, but uMention said so.