Kill the Social Network Overload with Path, a Private Social Experience

Five years ago, I, like many other people, had a MySpace account. It always seemed like it was some kind of race to see how many friends/bands/groups I could get onto my page, until eventually my social network was so large that there was no point in signing on again. I tried fixing that when I switched to Facebook, but somehow people I don’t really know still crept onto my page, and although it’s nowhere near as bad as MySpace, it’s not really a ton better either.

Now there’s Path, yet another social networking site hoping to win us over with promises that it won’t be like all the others. So what makes Path so different? Let’s explore the issue further after the break.

The Big Difference

While Facebook and MySpace let you have as many friends as you want, Path restricts your list to 50 members, and that’s it. No more seeing someone’s Farmville requests popping up in your Facebook feed, and no band requests from random groups based in the Boston area. Instead, you get 50 friends and family members to put on your list, and if you run out of space, tough.

New members can sign up right on the iPhone.

New members can sign up right on the iPhone.

That doesn’t make Path unsocial though; In fact, quite the opposite. Now your network is more intimate and cozy, and if you want to let something more personal out in the open, it’s no big deal – only your friends will know what you post. It’s not about writing long diatribes discussing your feelings about global warming either. Path is similar to Instagram in that it’s all about the images. With Path you take a photo or a video, tag someone in the picture, tag where you are then what you’re doing and that’s it. This makes the process quick and easy, so you can show your friends what you’re doing quickly, without having to type a small novel along the way.

Setup

When the app is first fired up, you can either log into your account if you already have one, or set up a new account right away. If you want, you can pair your Path account with your Facebook account which makes finding your friends and family a bit easier. If you prefer to keep off of the Facebook grid however, then you type in your associate’s email addresses and Path sends them an invite.

Email your friends and family, then setup your account.

Email your friends and family, then setup your account.

Next, Path asks you to upload a photo of yourself from your library or camera. This is the image all of your friends will see, so make sure it’s a good one, and not a shot of you doing keg stands your freshman year at Arizona State. After that, it’s time to capture a few images to start off your own page, so bounce around the house/apartment/office and take some shots with your iPhone, or just choose a few from your library that you want publicized. Finish it off by inviting three friends to Path via Facebook or email, and the setup is complete.

Path in Practice

To test this thing out, I needed to find some friends and family to join me on my new adventure. After sending out a few invites (and walking my mother through on how to use the app), I was ready to play around.

The Path timeline is clean and simple.

The Path timeline is clean and simple.

The key to this thing – as I see it, anyways – is the push notifications. If your iPhone beeped every time a Facebook contact made a post, you’d want to jump off a cliff. But with Path, a push notification feels warranted. It’s like you want the phone to beep because you know it’s someone you care about on the other end. I know, that seems contrary to most social networks today, and maybe that would change if I had 50 friends in my Path network. But for now, it feels right.

In Summary

I first heard about Path when stumbling about on the web somewhere. Apparently, Google offered them a dump truck full of bills to buy the company, and Path turned them down. Right then I knew that the company had good intentions, and their goal wasn’t to sell my personal info or try to get me to join the Pepsi generation. It seemed like a good company to get behind, so I did.

View your history and invite friends easily.

View your history and invite friends easily.

After using it for a few days, I realize that Path is more like what I expected social networking to really be. It’s not used for self promotion or to try to gain supporters for your business. Instead, Path can be emotional and real. It’s about you and your friends and your shared experiences together. Isn’t that the point?

At a time when everyone is so busy and we find ourselves taking time out of the day to read the twitter feeds of people we’ve never met before, it’s good to know that sometimes personal privacy does take priority, even in the social network.


Summary

Path allows you to share your life experiences with a select group of 50 friends.

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