What are we sacrificing when we choose social media? We trade from a small to a big part of our mental health, not to mention lots of privacy to connect to get the dopamine rush that makes us quite popular. “On-line. Platforms like Twitter and Facebook build on users’ feelings of inadequacy and loneliness, offering an endless, ongoing cycle of striving, virtue signals, and doom. Our online inventory is naturally incomplete and intended for consumption.
Your whole being on a social media platform?Is it possible to get the connection and conversation we crave without the doomscroll? Somewhere Good, a new social platform that launched last month, wants to find out. The app is unlike anything you’ve seen before; for example, it is based on voice recordings. Not only does it require users to agree to a set of community guidelines, but it also invites them to collaborate and make suggestions for expansion and improvement. However, what is most striking is the way it is designed.
There are no followers, no likes, no personal feeds, and no profiles beyond the basics: name, pronoun, location, and photo. The app currently includes four “worlds” that users can enter: Artist Rituals, Communal Care, Radical Library, and Deep Discourse. A new post for each world is posted each day, and users can post their own responses and/or reply to others’ responses. All of this is presented in the form of a path that curves back and forth. via the screen of your smartphone.
And it was designed by Annika Hansteen Izora.Hansteen Izora, who uses the pronouns they/her/him, describes herself as a queer artist, writer and designer. His multidisciplinary creative output includes art direction, poetry, a newsletter, memes, user experience and web design, a book titled Tenderness: An Honoring My Black Queer Joy and Rage, and more. His work expands our notion of what the internet can be, and his own personal use of social media platforms is an example of this. Hansteen Izora spoke to us about how Somewhere Good came about and how to use the internet for nutrition, community building and possibly even personal growth.
How are you?This month was particularly intense, worldwide and therefore also on the Internet. It’s a lot of intensity after intensity. This year I’ve really tried to block out the fast-paced noise of social media and really give myself some time to stay off the screen. So this week I was a bit out of line with just holding everything. When you were online, were any good places a source of comfort for you?It has allowed me to walk into a space that feels calm and feels like it is moving more slowly. Much of social media is compressed information by nature: it’s designed to be small.
Therefore, the internet feels faster. It’s really comforting to walk into a space where I’m still fulfilling my desire to connect and talk to people, but in a digital realm that’s slower and a little more vulnerable, a little more contemplative and the ability to maintain uncertainty. I heard you use the term digital garden to describe your work.What does that mean? I understand digital gardens as online spaces where many people come together to take care of seeds that can be understood as content. The container that houses the digital gardens is a commitment to sustainability, pluralism and cyclical growth. It implies adaptation and a culture of learning. How were you able to combine your technology and design skills with your interest in building a community?Was anyone first? I grew up in a family home that also had different interfaces at the same time. My family has very deep roots in black art and black art communities, and my father was really into technology, really into gaming.
see that both could exist at the same time. When I was a kid, the internet was such an important avenue that I accessed the black community, black knowledge, queer knowledge, the queer archive.As my relationship with my art deepened, the internet was always a tool that made it easier for me. Social networks are designed to make us all consumable, which means people become brands. Brands have only one message and always refer to that specific message.
digestible message. I’m a versatile artist; I am a web, product and brand designer. I’m also a writer, I’m a poet, I’m a multimedia artist.In order for the internet to be a tool that conveys a sense of learning and joy, I had to hack it in a way that allowed this diversity. This is how I currently do it online. Another term he has often used in discussing his work is interdependence. How do you cultivate interdependence and where did you first find the concept? I came up with this term while learning about disability equity as someone who is neurodivergent and realizing that they can’t do it all on their own.I don’t think we are meant to face our lives alone. This is a narrative that Western culture, especially when it’s at the crossroads of capitalism, is really fond of upholding: the narrative of hyperindividuality.
I was at a point with my mental health where I really needed support. Interdependence offered a path that honored caring for self and caring for others, showing how these two are truly in a loving relationship. Mariame Kaba says: “Everything worthwhile is done with other people.“I really stand by it. One of the bravest and most revolutionary things we can do is look out for each other. How does the app fit with all of these personal beliefs and practices of yours? At Somewhere Good, we design around connection. There are no followers, likes, ads, or algorithms that suggest content.There is no endless scrolling. We really wanted to see what it would look like if we created a social media platform that goes against hierarchies and turns people into brands.
We’re also thinking deeply about what nurturing and safety mean, creating online connections that feel more nurturing and meaningful, rather than as transactional and extractive. We have a set of community guidelines, which are a living document for our users to add suggestions to. We’re thinking about what it would be like to create a moderation system that doesn’t feel like a prisoner that actually canbe rooted in some of the principles of transformative justice. And we’re considering citing to ensure creators and people on the platform get proper credit for their contributions. They were instrumental in the development and design of the app.
Can you tell something about its origin and the design process? He was previously on the team at Ethel’s Club, a wellness platform for people of color founded by Naj Austin, who is also CEO of Somewhere Good. When the pandemic hit, we had to switch to an online approach.We got to thinking: how about having an online platform that’s about meaningful connections, that’s also about putting marginalized people first and not treating them like an afterthought? Targeted design at all visual touchpoints. Reflecting on what Internet joy looks like to me, I reverted to earlier notions of online playgrounds: Neopets, Club Penguin, Microsoft Paint, those messy early days of MySpace, personalized Tumblr blogs. When I think of social media app design today, it’s very clean and very minimal, which lends itself to digestibility.
Somewhere Good is designed around gameplay and nuanced maximalism.We are very color oriented. We have a set of icons created by color artists. We bring collage work with us. I wanted this design to feel like you’re arriving at a playground. do Somewhere Good based on audio and intent?Our early values are based on deepening connection and honoring and supporting Black expression. Oral tradition is deeply rooted in blackness. There’s a certain vulnerability in the audio and we wanted to explore that intimacy. There is a deeper connection to our identity with the voice. .There is a nuance in the voice often not found in other mediums and a deeper attention.Black culture runs the internet, but it’s not respected. It is not appreciated; not quoted.
So it’s a powerful thing to build from a place that honors Black expression online when it’s had so much influence but not much respect and not much care around it. Do you see Somewhere Good coming into the bigger picture of social media? What are your dreams for the future of the application?I’m excited to see how we can help people connect with more intent and tenderness, and how we can encourage people to learn, archive, and connect with each other as sources of knowledge. We are also thinking more about how we can connect the online experience with the real experiences and what potential lies in an online platform that also thinks about the connection to real life.
is to keep you online. By nature, they cannot encourage you to live a life outside of it.Exactly. In one of our first tests, we had a “weekend mode”. That meant the app was unavailable over the weekend and instead a screen was displayed telling users, “We’re not here. Please enjoy your experience outside of this app.” While we no longer have the weekend screen, we’re thinking about what a social platform looks like when you don’t really want your users to be on it all the time, and instead is a tool that lets you Life outside the app can support like right.