New Social Network Is All College, All the Time (CHE)

March 3, 2015
[full article here.]

Once upon a time, Facebook was reserved for college students only. A new social network is trying to reboot that idea, with a college-only service called Friendsy.

The service is the creation of two Princeton University undergraduates, Michael Pinsky and Vaidhy Murti, who hope to help facilitate connections among college students who might otherwise never meet.

“It’s kind of nice and reassuring to know that there’s a network of people just like you out there who are trying to meet other people and who are trying to branch out,” Mr. Pinsky said.

The service has two main features: connect and chitchat. With connect, students can swipe through different profiles and indicate one of three relationships they’d like to have with a person: friendship, hookup, or date. Users can apply filters—looking to connect only with women or only with, say, students in their own college or only within their academic program. The chitchat feature randomly pairs up people who then receive an icebreaker prompt—usually a light or silly question, like “cats or dogs?”—and are invited to chat. If they choose to, the users can reveal their identities to each other.

Mr. Pinsky and Mr. Murti launched Friendsy as a website at Princeton in the spring of 2013. In the spring of 2014 they added a mobile app and expanded the service to seven colleges, and later to 33 more. Today the service has gone nationwide, with channels for more than 1,600 colleges. The service has about 25,000 users and has made 200,000 mutual matches.

Friendsy resembles a hybrid of several different social networks: The exclusive social-network aspect is similar to the early days of Facebook, the anonymity piece is reminiscent of Yik Yak, and the dating elements are similar to Tinder.

Despite its similarities to Facebook, Mr. Pinsky thinks the exclusivity will appeal to college students. He said there is evidence that the college demographic is moving away from Facebook, and he believes the reason is Facebook’s broad user base. That means Facebook feeds get clogged with posts from extended family members, high-school classmates you haven’t talked to since graduation, and co-workers from three summers ago. Much of what people see in their news feed is irrelevant to them, and Mr. Pinsky said Friendsy, being all college all the time, is different.

Unlike Facebook, where users already know the people they’re connecting with, Friendsy gives students an opportunity to meet someone new, Mr. Murti said. On Facebook, he added, there’s often a stigma about who friends whom first, or friending someone whom you don’t know well. With Friendsy, branching out of your social circle is the whole point.

Though hooking up is one aspect of Friendsy, it’s not quite as focused on matchmaking as are apps like Tinder. Friendsy offers a variety of different relationships, not just romantic ones. “Tinder is very kind of one-dimensional. It’s sort of a hot-or-not kind of thing. And I think that we definitely see ourselves as much more nuanced than that,” Mr. Pinsky said. “Life in general is much more nuanced than hot or not.”

About Ryan C. Fowler

Ryan is a curricular fellow at the Center for Hellenic Studies in Washington D.C. He also teaches at Franklin and Marshall College and Lancaster Theological Seminary.
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