In the era of the smartphone, Social Networking is a significant form of interaction and communication. It’s a tool that can be used to provide information, and it brings people together from all around the world. Google is a massive player in the online landscape, with its search engine bringing in “1.17 billion users.” It only makes sense that they are expanding their reach to the realm of Social Networking.
Recently, Google announced its plan to launch a new app called Shoelace. This app is unlike traditional Social Networks because it is designed as a stepping stone to bring people together in real life. Social media is a fantastic tool, but it can leave people feeling disconnected when everything is through a screen. Shoelace is aimed to bring communities together by connecting people to local events and activities that are organized through the app.
What is Shoelace?
Shoelace is a hyperlocal mobile app working to bring people together through person to person contact activities based on common interests. The main goal of this app is to help community members interact and meet with others who live locally. Interests between community members can be found through the attendance of specific activities (Loops) around each city/town.
According to Psychology Today, a survey was done on people who spend a lot of time on social media every day. The active users “felt lonelier than those who spent less time engaged in social media.” Although social media is designed to bring people together, it can often have the opposite effect. Shoelace aims to create real-world connections by “tying people together based on their interests, like two laces on a shoe.”
Breaking the Disconnection
Most social media apps make people feel disconnected because the way people interact online is quite different from the way they interact in person. People will say and do things that they wouldn’t normally do when there is a screen to hide behind. For example, with the boom in social media, cyberbullying has become a major issue.
The 2017 School Crime Supplement (National Center for Education Statistics and Bureau of Justice) indicates that “among students ages 12-18 who reported being bullied at school during the school year, 15% were bullied online or by text.” Cyberbullying is a growing issue and has long-term consequences on the mental health of the victims. Shoelace aims to create a social platform that fosters connections between its users by putting them together in real life.
Human to Human Contact
The major takeaway from the creation of this app is that Google is trying to encourage more face-to-face interaction as a way to reduce the time people spend on their phones. Google says “the app is part of a larger effort to address concerns that smartphones and other modern technology are having a negative effect on mental health.” Encouraging individuals to spend more time with other humans and interacting without the use of social media is the company’s mindset behind Shoelace.
Shoelace can be a great resource if you are:
- New to a city
- Interested in networking with like-minded individuals
- Looking for an activity specific to your interests
- On a budget and looking for free events
- Generally interested in meeting people
Social Life Perks
The activities, called ‘Loops,’ occur all over each community, where social app users can handpick whichever they prefer to attend. By choosing the Loop that matches with your interests, you will be able to meet neighboring community members who enjoy common interests as you.
- Create your own Loops – Another addition to this app is that users will be able to create events and invite particular members to attend, whether they’re Shoelace app members or not.
- Set up a profile – The app will allow users to set up personal profiles to showcase who they are as individuals. Other users can view their profile and learn more about them, making it easier to organize and plan events.
Shoelace is designed to work with your life and take the burden out of bringing people together. Organizing events and getting the word out can be difficult and time-consuming, but Shoelace makes it easy. The app provides a space not only to create activities but to find people in your community who want to attend them.
App Activities (Loops)
Every day there will be activities listed on the app that are occurring locally. You can handpick which events you would like to attend, “from pick-up soccer to free comedy shows.” There will be a topic selection option that users can click to help narrow down the activity search. Shoelace will then showcase activities that are happening around them based on their narrowed down results.
Whether you are looking for something to do with your friends on the weekend or just looking to get out of your comfort zone and meet people, Shoelace makes it easy to find the perfect activities in your area.
A concern that arises with apps that connect strangers is safety. With online dating and rideshare apps gaining popularity, consumers put more trust in the companies running these apps than ever. Like other meetup apps, safety is a primary concern for Shoelace.
Some of Shoelace’s safety features include:
- Community verification – When an individual creates a Shoelace account, they are asked to join a specific community, which usually requires verification. According to the Shoelace website FAQ, this feature is designed to “ensure you only attend Loops with people you might want to know.”
- Rules and regulations – Shoelace is also monitored to ensure that everything you see in the app, from profiles to Loops, follows the house rules and community standards. The app relies on users feeling safe when going out to any Loop.
- Report function – Like with any Social Networking site, there is room for error. If you see any suspicious activity that goes against Shoelace’s rules, click ‘Report’ and Google will view the problem and work to make it right.
Area 120 is Google’s in-house incubator, the birthplace of Google Shoelace. At Area 120, employees pitch things like social networks, business services, travel tools, and educational apps. Then, Google selects the most promising teams, the most promising ideas, and the most promising markets. Google employees can go to Area 120 and give their full attention to their passion projects.
- Employees have pitched over a thousand projects, with only around 50 receiving the go-ahead.
- Staff accepted into Area 120 depart their old jobs and take on their passion project full time.
- Employees receive enough financial support to begin turning their pitches into real businesses, including the “ability to staff up with recruits from within Google or outside the company” (Fast Company).
The idea with Area 120 is to develop products that are the next big thing in tech. They are necessities, tools that people will benefit from using, and continue to use every day. It’s a process designed to sort through all of the brilliant ideas Google employees come up with and find the products people will love. Shoelace has passed through this experimental incubator and is believed to be the next step in Social Networking.
Shoelace Right Now
As of now, Shoelace is only available in New York City as Google is conducting an invite-only test to work out any kinks. According to the Shoelace website, “Shoelace currently supports both Android devices (v.8.0 or newer) and iOS (v11.0) or newer. You also must have an active Google account to sign in.”
New York is the prime testing ground for Shoelace.
- There is a broad base of Google users eager to test and give feedback for the app.
- New York has a high urban density, with people of all different interests.
- There is an endless variety of events and activities to explore all around New York.
These are all essential factors in making sure users have a great first experience with the app.
The Future of Shoelace
Google hopes to advance this app further and expand it to other cities across America. Shoelace has the potential to start a new wave of Social Networking that goes beyond the screen and into the real world. Once the beta test is complete, Google will be able to see if Shoelace is a viable option to roll out nationwide. If you would like to bring Google Shoelace to your community, submit a request via the Shoelace NYC website.
It’s hard to predict which applications will be the next big thing in Social Networking, but Shoelace is extremely promising. Google is a major player in the online stratosphere, which gives their apps more reputability and a higher chance of success. In this modern age of smartphones and growing human disconnection, Google Shoelace hopes to create a new era of Social Networking that brings communities together.