Can we find meaningful community through digital apps?

With their newly launched app, The School of Life aims to offer an alternative to the many, fairly superficial social networking apps on the market. They have created a forum that hopes to facilitate more personal, deeper conversation about life's complex questions - an interactivity far away from likes, face filters, hashtags and self-promotion. The hope is to help people discover deep connections with other's looking to do the same.

To join The School of Life community and start chatting, you fill out a handful of categories such as your favorite films, music, books and things you want to learn more about, adding your photo if you'd like. From there you can begin chatting to people directly or join on-going conversations to  reflect on questions such as "what do people not quite get about you?" with others. 

Here's the blurb:

We have developed our very own free app, which we think you may really like. Even in a hyperconnected age, it’s only too easy to feel isolated. Despite everything, the modern world remains a lonely place, where it can be hard to find intelligent conversation and friendship. The School of Life app helps you track down people with whom you can have deeper, more meaningful connections. We bring together like-minded people from around the world based on shared cultural and psychological concerns.

While this does sound refreshing, it dodges a number of important questions, the most obvious of which is how helpful is it to narrow down our meaningful conversations to people who are the same as us?  Will we get the additional perspectives we need to help us develop our view of ourselves? And even in that conversation, how real can it be when the person is remote, with no relationship at stake?

We should also keep in mind that The School of Life does use the app as a means to promote their products. Although it might be far from ad-heavy environments such as Facebook, we are still (to some extent) being targeted as consumers. 

Are we cool with this? Can we accept that the ads are there and enjoy the free content and service that The School of Life provides? Or do we need ad-free online, social spaces where we can meet and connect with each other?  That is, if need more on-line time at all when looking to understand ourselves and our society more. Twitter @AlterUK21 to let us know what you think. 

PRACTICEpat kane