I just finished posting the obligatory wedding anniversary status update on Facebook, complete with a wedding picture. Let’s face it: These kinds of status updates have replaced greeting cards for a lot of people. But some people simply do not want to share their most intimate sentiments with other peoples’ news feeds, which has given birth to the personal social network.
Yes, a personal social network. While some offer to link you up exclusively with only close friends or relatives, a number cater specifically to relationships. It’s just you and you’re significant other. But what’s the point of a “social network” comprised of two people? Do these services actually bring you any closer together? I decided to find out.
It’s been eight years for my wife Kathy and I, and as with any good marriage, our love has grown in response to the problems we have faced together. Communication is key, so I was more than willing to try one of these social networks built for two, an app called Tokii.
Once you and your partner have entered into a relationship (one sends an invitation that the other has to accept; no imaginary relationships with Jennifer Lawrence), you are provided a place to describe your mood using both text and a rather large collection of emoticons. There’s also a bank of quizzes – called DiscoveryGames – that you can take solo, together, or in a “compete” mode where you try to guess what the other person’s answers will be.
The quizzes run from groups of ten steamy questions you might come across with a sex therapist to banks of questions about parenting or religion. This is the most fun part of the process and where Tokii has its claim to fame, having started as a website that focused on these types of quizzes. Unfortunately some of the cooler ideas from the site, like the TradingPost where you can barter for certain services from your mate, haven’t made it to the app yet.
The generic quizzes are great, and cover universal themes that every couple should address in their relationship. Some of the “timelier” quizzes, asking your partner’s take on current events for example, are in terrible need of updating. The most recent ones cover the events that made news… in 2011. Not surprisingly, my wife was in favor of killing Osama bin Laden.
After a couple of weeks of use, I can report that we did not use the mood-entry function at all. It’s a fine idea, but we found that if we were stressed or excited or wanted to flirt, we would just text like we’ve been doing for years. Also, texting tells you when you have a new message, whereas Tokii lacks push functionality and only sends email notifications when a quiz is completed. If you just put things out into the ether on an app I’m not used to, things get ignored.
The DiscoveryGames were fun – even if they were only multiple choice – and Kathy will be the first to tell you that she won all of those in which we “competed”, but only by a question or two. I’m blaming the fact that men are irrefutably honest; therefore it was easy to guess my answers. Allowing short answers on certain questions would be a much more valuable experience for sharing, even if you couldn’t play the guessing game.
As with any aspect of a relationship, the key to making Tokii work is commitment. If you and your partner really focus on using it for your interpersonal communications, it provides some value. If it’s something you do on a lark, you will quickly move on to the alternatives you have already been using.
Many social networks provide a way to connect with the people, the question with Tokii is whether it can save you hundreds of dollars in couples’ counseling fees. Because of the anemic messaging and lack of short-answer capability in the DiscoveryGames, the answer is no. Much more ground – and much more up-to-date topics – can be covered on the leather couch of a therapist. But does that mean that some of these other personalized social options can’t work? After all, isn’t one of the main features of Google+ the idea that you can form circles of specific people?
The fact that my wife – a very private person who is about as far away from an oversharer on Facebook as you can get – could not open up on Tokii says a lot. Social networking is not for everybody. We shouldn’t have to design new sites and apps in an attempt to draw people out from their bubble or protect oversharers from embarrassing themselves.
While personal social networks present an interesting alternative to the wide world of Facebook, they’ll will need to provide much more value and really help people along on the path of relationship building in order to shift the paradigm. Offering a more secure experience is not enough.