Have you seen your friends lately?

Take a look at your phone's contacts app. How many people do you actually talk to among all those contacts? It's not your fault; we've been conditioned to keep adding more and more contacts. The same applies to Instagram or LinkedIn. If you're like most people I've spoken to in recent months, you probably follow over 500 people on Instagram and have at least 700 connections on LinkedIn. The surprising thing is that the more we "connect," the more we seem to disconnect.

Friendship is a crucial aspect of human life that has been shown to have many positive benefits for an individual's overall well-being and happiness. Studies have consistently shown that having strong, meaningful friendships can improve an individual's mental and physical health. For example, a 2010 study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health found that having a strong social network can reduce an individual's risk of death by 50%. Another study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, found that strong social connections can increase life expectancy by up to 15 years.

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Even animals rely on friendships and social bonds to thrive, often traveling in packs or herds for protection, cooperation in hunting, and raising their young. These social structures not only ensure their survival but also provide a sense of community and companionship among individual animals.


However, despite the many benefits of friendship, it is becoming increasingly difficult for people to maintain strong, meaningful connections with others. The rise of social media has made it easier for people to connect with others, but it has also led to a decrease in face-to-face interactions and a rise in loneliness. Social media perpetually diverts our attention and creates the false impression of social interaction.

Watch this commencement speech to Vanderbilt University by Greylock General Partner, Reid Hoffman, that speaks of the importance of friendship.

Meghana Dhar also brings up some great points in her LinkedIn post here:

  • "Social media isn’t social anymore. It’s just… media. Social media has moved from engaging social interactions to passive content consumption."

  • “People still have a basic human need to meaningfully connect. With their friends, friends of friends, and communities.”

Truth is, social media is different now. It used to be all about friends and family, but nowadays, it feels like it’s more about ads, influencers, creators, brands, and commerce. The initial social networks were genuinely about friends—platforms like Bolt, Bebo, Six Degrees, Friendster, and Hi5, which primarily aimed to network with friends. Then, of course, in 2003, MySpace dominated and became the first to reach a global audience. Facebook followed suit a few years later, connecting people worldwide. Managing over three billion users is no small feat. That's a lot of friendships.

What has become of the social networks that many of us grew up with? The ones we introduced to our families as platforms for connecting with friends, sharing photos, and perhaps applying some filters at most. Nowadays, there's so much happening on these platforms, which can be seen as a blessing, but I believe it's increasingly becoming a curse.

It feels like someone is always selling you something. When did it become this way? When did it become the norm? It's disheartening to witness the metamorphosis of platforms we put so much trust in, and spend so much time with, go from personal connection to mere avenues for revenue.

There’s a moral crisis. I am extremely concerned with the direction in which it’s going. A couple years ago, it got so bad, Dove made an ad called the Reverse Selfie about how ‘social media is hurting our girls’ self esteem’? My question isn’t just when did this become the norm, but why are we OK with this? We deserve better.


A recent study showed:

  • 60% of people wish they saw their friends more.

  • 43% of users delete their posts that get too few likes

  • 70% of people feel excluded from social media

  • 87% of users say there is too much noise on social media


I too conducted a survey asking people what their biggest pain point with social media is.

Here are just 22 of the hundreds of responses:

  1. "Actively wastes my time with highly addictive content."

  2. "All my networks and info on my friends are fragmented so I'm not able to synthesize what I need to know quickly about my friends, where they are, and how to bring them together."

  3. "Too much superficial / fakeness, and nonsense."

  4. "Social media has enabled people to glamorize everything and that leads to development of a comparison factor among friends. I don’t enjoy it."

  5. "Too political, too self-promoting, overpopulated with NFT bots, security/phishing, time-suck."

  6. "Algorithm that picks up searches and bombards with ads related to it."

  7. "I find myself falling out of touch with people I shouldn't."

  8. "Too many advertisements + negative content."

  9. "Connections realistically mean nothing."

  10. "Not enough engagement with the people I care about."

  11. "It's all influencers in the wild nonsense."

  12. "Data privacy."

  13. "Not clear who my followers are - jumbled mess of school friends who I don't talk to, random people from nights out."

  14. "Inauthentic influencers, can't stay in touch with friends."

  15. "Want to see more of my friends' posts, rather than verified accounts, videos and reels."

  16. "Every platform is starting to feel like there’s only shopping / consumer based content."

  17. "Too many ads."

  18. "Lack of true connection."

  19. "They’re more media. Less social."

  20. "Lots of updates from people I don't care about and not enough for the people I do care about. I've been unfollowing people a lot to try to solve this, but it's still noisy with ads instead."

  21. "Too many advertisements and paid content. I don't like being pushed towards content. Also repeated content via bots and no way to differentiate between fake (staged content) and real."

And perhaps the most insightful one of all:

22. "I don't feel good after spending time on Social Media"

Ouch.

Clearly, people's major issues with current social media platforms revolve around concerns related to fragmentation of connections and information, the prevalence of superficial and inauthentic interactions, and the sheer volume of ads. Many users express a longing for more authenticity, relevant content, and tools that facilitate genuine connections while reducing noise and distractions.


What are some of the macro challenges social media faces today?

  • Misinformation Epidemic. One of the most pressing concerns about social media today is the rampant spread of misinformation. The ease with which false information can be disseminated to millions in a matter of seconds has raised alarming consequences. From fabricated news articles to manipulated images, misinformation not only influences public opinion but also erodes the foundations of trust and critical thinking.

  • Mental Health Implications. The negative impact of social media on mental health has gained significant attention in recent years. The constant exposure to carefully curated highlight reels of others' lives can foster feelings of inadequacy, envy, and depression. The addictive nature of scrolling, coupled with the pressure to gain approval through likes and comments, has contributed to a rise in anxiety and low self-esteem among users, especially among the younger generation.

  • Cyberbullying and Toxicity. Despite the potential for connecting people across the globe, social media platforms have also become breeding grounds for cyberbullying and toxic behavior. Anonymity often emboldens individuals to engage in hurtful actions they might not pursue offline. This pervasive negativity not only affects individuals' mental well-being but also tarnishes the online community experience.

  • Privacy Concerns. The digital age has made personal information more vulnerable than ever. The data-driven business models of many social media platforms have raised concerns about user privacy. From targeted advertisements to potential data breaches, users' personal information is often exploited without their explicit consent.

The good thing is, big companies know this is all an issue. Instagram is testing a feature to let you share feed posts just with ‘Close Friends’. Clubhouse is rebranding itself as a better alternative for group texting.

Investors too, who do make a great impact on the industry, are hoping to change the future. See Faraz Fatemi of Lightspeed Venture Partners write about friend-centric social interactivity.

"The reason for this shift is relatively straightforward and also tied directly to monetization — algorithm-driven recommendation content has now proven to scale further in terms of volume of interactions than social graph-based content. In short, algorithmic distribution is more efficient at driving engagement and therefore driving more revenue." - Faraz Fatemi


So, what are we doing about it?

We're putting the "social" back in social media. We are creating an alternative solution. A platform where quality trumps quantity, where genuine bonds are nurtured, and where serendipity thrives. The goal isn't to amass followers, but to deepen connections. To share in the joys, triumphs, and challenges of those who matter most. Reflecting on my journey, it's clear that every breadcrumb of experience has led to this pivotal moment.

Over the last six years, playing an important role at Techstars, working at the forefront of which startups get funded, I learned from all the steps those around me took.

While it was difficult to leave, this is the only thing that I could end up leaving for. It ended up not being an option. As I’ve always said, building a company isn’t a choice. You don’t wake up in the morning deciding to work on one. It’s something that keeps you up at night. I simply could not leave this moment in history.

I imagine a different future. A solution where we aren’t told we need more friends, but a way to stay in touch with existing friends. A place to be a better friend. See your best friends more. While you may be alone, you don’t feel alone. Less self-promotion, more authentic connection.

Favs, is an app just for friends, and family. Something that tells me what's going on in their lives. That’s all people want.


Saba Karim
CEO & Co-founder
Favs