Blend, a new social networking app aiming to attract university students, is one of the many new channels drawing attention from Facebook, according to a Digiday report.
The name suggested to me the start of a move away from the trend that New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd lamented several years ago: online applications that allow college students to select roommates most like themselves.
Roommate screening makes sense at first blush. You really don’t want to live with a yodeling fetishist or someone who listens, unironically, to N’Synch. But think about the idea again and it flies in the face of the spirit of the university (root word: universe), where our young are supposed to be exposed to new ideas. It might not be spelled out in the curriculum, but university students of different backgrounds, ideologies, and lifestyles should learn to, well … blend. Or at least mingle.
The compulsion to bunk with our clones is just another manifestation of the social trends that have led to the sort of loudest-voice-wins political discourse we see pundits spew in front of television camera. Dan Ackroyd’s “Jane, you ignorant slut” wouldn’t necessarily register as comedy these days. Without this ferocity, broadcast news would be dead and buried. This is particularly the case in the U.S., where an inability to accommodate differing views has shut down the federal government.
Perhaps Blend, as the name suggests, would break down the walls we construct through social media…. those echo chambers within which some people can’t imagine anyone not appreciating Latin jazz, Jeff Koons sculptures, and bibimbap. All at the same time.
So this brings me to blend.com, which turns out to be just another incarnation of twitsnapinstumblineredditvinebook, with the benefit of more advertisements that you can’t kill. It’s YouTube without having to type any words, and it’s promoted with a video featuring college students getting drunk, stoned, and felt up, all to the beat of trance music we’ve heard for the past 20 years. (For some thoughts on why music hasn’t changed for two decades, read my previous post.)
I was hoping, rather quixotically, that blend would have found some way to bridge social media micro-tribes through… I don’t know… some sort of challenge. Let jocks figure out how to show modern interpretive dance afficionados something that would force them to acknowledge the artistic value of sports. And vice versa, of course. Let fans of Justin Bieber… um, nevermind.
So, in the end, I’m let down by Blend. It’s just another way to amplify the social media bubbles we inflate unconsciously regardless of how much Blend pushes the image of young people carousing with each other indiscriminately.
It’s not that I object to university students getting drunk, stoned or felt up. Hell, I wish I had got more of that when I was there. I just wonder if that gets boring in the absence of anything else, especially when it’s probably happening with their clones.