Glacier

Cultivating strong ties through social media

The vast majority of social media websites focus on cultivating weak social ties (i.e. people who you know and perhaps are friendly), but these people are not people you could contact in a crisis. From an economic perspective, this sort of social connection makes sense, as these companies make money from serving advertisements to a large quantity of individuals, and the more connections someone has, the more effectively these advertisements can be targeted, thereby bettering the corporation’s bottom line and appeasing the interest of its investors. Because this project was not driven by corporate interests, we were able to free ourselves from these incentives and focus on coming up with a concept that helps people form new friendships based on what we found to be good indicators of strong-tie friendships.

Glacier was a project I did with a couple of other HCI researchers and students with the goal being to design a social network that could perhaps integrate the social ecosystem of a relatively frigid college lecture or classroom. We had each noticed that often in our CMU classes we felt as though it seemed ridiculous the difficulty sometimes encountered in finding peers for some. More broadly, Glacier was about a concept I had been thinking about for a while with respect to human interaction introductions. What were the current models out there for meeting people online? Well, dating apps, and the paradigm promulgated by most were not within the scope of the problem we were interested in; what works for a dating app is not going to necessarily translate to success in creating such an app for socializing in the college classroom. Not only would such potential social ties s make getting a good group project partner less challenging and uninformed, but would also allow an opportunity for potential friends to meet, an opportunity that otherwise is reserved for certain personality traits and social abilities.

For some, tra dnsitioning from the long-established friend groups cultivated from childhood and often maintained into high school, it can be difficult to the variegated social scene that comes along with university life. While our app, Glacier, is open to all students, the concept was first brought to our attention when discussing difficulty meeting new people in a university context. With high schools, most students will at least have the comfort of knowing that everyone grew up in a similar environment, whereas the pool of students at universities are from all over the world, with a much more diverse set of understandings and cultures.

For some, transitioning from the long-established friend groups cultivated from childhood and often maintained into high school, it can be difficult to the variegated social scene that comes along with university life. While our app, Glacier, is open to all students, the concept was first brought to our attention when discussing difficulty meeting new people in a university context. With high schools, most students will at least have the comfort of knowing that everyone grew up in a similar environment, whereas the pool of students at universities are from all over the world, with a much more diverse set of understandings and cultures.

While most high schools encouraged collaborative environments right of the bat with icebreakers or at least name introductions in all classes, universities typically assume that students will be able to socialize and form friendships on their own. Thus in high schools, students are able to develop friendships whenever they are put into a new class, versus in universities, there is an impending race for college freshmen to find all their friends during orientation week while nobody knows each other, and no “cliques” have settled yet1. This social phenomenon in turn, induces awkward social interactions when assigned team projects, where students are finally and suddenly forced to interact with other people in their class besides their “clique”. The ultimate goal for Glacier is for people to eventually meet up in real life after becoming close enough with someone through the app, which is why we’ve restricted the proximity of Glacier to the university.

For our final project, we decided to focus on the concept of creating strong ties through social media, which we addressed with the creation of a mobile application. In the modern age, social media is the arguably the easiest platform for people to freely express their opinions and emotions2. It’s not uncommon to find that for most people, it is easier to converse through online interactions. Although we do not necessarily condone this growing dependency on social media, our objective is to utilize the current vast presence and comfortableness of online interactions to help our audience create new companions and build strong relationships.

As a response to the issue we decided to address, we created Glacier, an application that would allow users in a university setting to connect with other students. Through an initial survey, Glacier would match two people together based on compatibility levels of their personalities while not allowing people to be judged based on their name or appearance. Through implementing gamification into the application, random information about each conversation partner would be gradually revealed. We decidedtotargetcollegecampuses as it could enable students to meet and befriend people they may not normally be acquainted with. While Glacier could allow shy students to reach out, it could also allow more outgoing students to meet a wider variety of people. In essence, Glacier would act as a low-cost way for college students to interact with one another.