Metro Detroiter to launch ‘healthy’ social media app, Ruva.app

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It is an app designed to take you offline.

Inspired by the more personal early days of social media, Daniel Kastner, a resident of Dearborn, founded Ruva.app as a healthier alternative to existing apps. Its mission is to keep people connected, not dependent.

“One of the values ​​is to design something that can still connect us well, but doesn’t have that appeal to come back to the app over and over again,” Kastner said. “I wanted an app that works in a social way and closer to real interactions.”

Scheduled to launch by the end of November, Ruva.app is devoid of features we’ve now become accustomed to – on the one hand: there’s no Like button. Rather than using the traditional feed layout, endless unpredictable scrolling, Ruva.app removes the surprise factor and gives users control over how their feed is kept.

“These news feeds are basically designed like casino slots, so when you open one of these social media apps, you don’t really know what you’re going to get,” said Kastner, who has a engineering training. “If you opened one of these apps now, you couldn’t tell me what you’re going to see. It’s actually done on purpose, so you get that extra shot of dopamine when you open most of these social media sites.

“It’s like opening a little gift every time and you don’t know what’s inside – it’s really intentional.”

Kastner, 35, remembers the early days of social media, when people shared Chuck Norris’ jokes and devoted entire photo albums to school dances, before smartphones were glued to every person’s hand. He has witnessed the shift to the seemingly inescapable grip of social media.

A screenshot of Ruva in beta.  Daniel Kastner is the creator and founder of Ruva, a social media app in his Dearborn home on Wednesday, October 27, 2021. Kastner and his team hope to launch the app by mid-November.  The app allows users to communicate with each other without the likes reward system, which can often make people want to constantly check their feeds like many do with Facebook.

“In the beginning, social media was a lot more personal, people tended to share more personal things and updates about their lives,” he said. “What we know today is that the algorithms that determine what we see are more concerned with the attention posts receive rather than the meaning of the content.”

Then, in September 2020, came a Netflix documentary: “The Social Dilemma”. The documentary is a warning from technology leaders in Silicon Valley about the influence of social media on users’ mental health, fueling addictions and threatening democracy.

Kastner, tired of talking about the problem, decided to take action. Thus, Ruva.app was born.

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Mixed messages

A simple surface research on the impacts of social media will yield millions of results. Countless studies show that attention span is shorter, levels of anxiety and depression are higher, misinformation is rampant.

Research from the Center for Humane Technology, which produced “The Social Dilemma,” describes the impact of social media on users. It tricks users into believing trivial matters are urgent, using notifications as false alarms and effectively distracting attention; it forces users to multitask by keeping them engaged in automated behavior that weakens brain function.

Not to mention its impact on our relationships.

A study compared the ability between two people to connect, based solely on the presence of a mobile phone. He found that the presence of a cell phone can disrupt the connection between two people, reducing levels of empathy and trust, interfering with the ability to develop intimacy.

Additionally, the use of social media can adversely affect users’ view of their bodies and the development of eating disorders. A study found that women’s ratings of their own appearance decreased in direct proportion to the number of likes attached to each celebrity post on Instagram. It is not only women who are affected – men exposed to “fitspo” are more likely to be dissatisfied with their own bodies.

Daniel Kastner, the creator and founder of Ruva, a social media app scrolls through his Ruva desktop app at his Dearborn home on Wednesday, October 27, 2021. Kastner and his team hope to launch the app by mid-November.  The app allows users to communicate with each other without the likes reward system, which can often make people want to constantly check their feeds like many do with Facebook.

However, these findings are not new: Social media use is consistently associated with negative body image, and this association only grows stronger over time.

In September, a leak of internal documents showed that Facebook knew Instagram was having a negative impact on users, especially teenage girls, which led to a hearing of whistleblower Frances Haugen before the United States Senate.

Extending beyond Facebook’s impact on teenage girls, the documents revealed that internal studies showed the platform was ineffective in identifying and removing misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine and enabled trafficking human being.

“Facebook understands that if they are to continue to grow, they have to find new users. They have to make sure that the next generation is just as engaged with Instagram as the current generation is, and how they will be doing it, by doing so. ensuring that children establish habits before having good self-regulation, ”Haugen told the Senate subcommittee.

It’s not all bad

However, while the research can be alarming, it is no different from the moral panic felt every time a new technology is introduced, said Cliff Lampe, a professor of information at the University of Michigan who studies positive and negative effects of social media.

“With every new information or communication technology that we receive comes there are reasonable concerns about what this tool means,” Lampe said. “What people don’t realize is that there are positive effects on today’s social media sites that people are getting from outside of the simple dopamine rush. It’s easy to underestimate that ‘there really can be good things happening in social media.

Seen as a tool, social media is good for emotional support because it provides an immediate affirmative feedback loop, Lampe said. They are also good for the “light” social support of a large network of people.

“In general, while we tend to worry – and there are mental health issues that can arise through social media – they tend to be more of a symptom than a cause,” he said. declared. “People who genuinely struggle with social media addiction or with heightened anxiety via social media, most of the evidence points to having other underlying issues with anxiety and depression. “

The difference, Lampe said, is in the way users interact with social media: whether they passively scroll or actively engage. When people passively navigate their timelines, see vacations to white sand beaches and professional baby photoshoots, that’s when that dreaded feeling of FOMO – the fear of missing something – seeps in. .

Daniel Kastner, creator and founder of Ruva, a social media app in his Dearborn home, on Wednesday, October 27, 2021. Kastner and his team hope to launch the app by mid-November.  The app allows users to communicate with each other without the likes reward system, which can often make people want to constantly check their feeds like many do with Facebook.

Regarding the future of social media, Lampe said privacy concerns and the traditional business model may be overhauled.

“I always tell my students if you don’t pay for the product, you are the product,” he said. “What is happening is because the business models of these social media sites are all about attention and attention gathering as much as they can, which creates some of the manipulative stuff, dopamine , which stretch, I think we care the most.

“How are you going to fund a social media site without needing to grab attention?” This is what will change the game.

This is where Ruva.app stands out from the popular social media apps.

To resolve the privacy issue, users will not have public profiles on Ruva.app. To add friends, each user will have a private link that they can share directly with the friends they want to connect with. This eliminates the fears of spambots or the fears of parents that predators will find their children.

“Ruva is going to be the place where no one can even search (the users), they will only be connected to people they know privately,” Kastner said.

However, this characteristic is at odds with a fact of life: Humans are “conservative with their cognitive energy,” Lampe said – which is a nice way of saying that people tend to be lazy. Even when valuing privacy, people tend to prioritize efficiency over privacy.

“It is socially acceptable to say, ‘I value privacy’; it is not socially acceptable to say, “I want everything to be easy,” Lampe said.

In terms of the business model, Ruva.app will not feature any advertising, moving towards the less popular path to profit. Instead, it will sell profile and feed customizations, like stickers, to users.

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And if that doesn’t work, Kastner says Plan B is a freemium model, where most of the features will be free but others will require users to pay to unlock.

“My biggest hope is that people can connect in a healthy way and feel good about using Ruva.app, that they can connect in a healthy way online and feel good, because we have removed all of these negative incentives, ”Kastner said. noted.

“So when you use Ruva you may think, ‘This app isn’t trying to manipulate me. “”

People can know more about Ruva.app on www.ruva.app

Contact Miriam Marini at mmarini@freepress.com.


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