Idea: Nurturing App for Social Media

Friendster or Foe
Image by l0ckergn0me via Flickr

Without going into details, I’ve been handling a lot of major personal stuff lately — and I’ve been fortunate to have a strong and growing circle of close friends who have stepped up to offer me a steady supply of energy, support, perspective, honesty, sympathy, empathy, nurturing, and fun.

And I do this for them, too. That’s the core of deep friendship and other loving connections: You give of your own energy to help sustain others who are running low or in transition. At certain points we all need more nurturing; and at other times we have an abundance of energy and emotion to offer. Life comes in waves.

Personally, I’ve always found it very hard to ask for the help or nurturing I need. I don’t trust people easily, especially where my feelings of vulnerability are concerned. I assume that any emotional need I have, however small, will be perceived as too great an imposition. I don’t expect other people to be available to me. (Yes, I’m working on changing this mindset, quite deliberately. It’s a coping mechanism I’ve outgrown.)

As I’m reaching out more to my close friends, I’m wishing I had a tool that would help me to gauge their situation before I make a request, so I can be more sensitive to when I might actually be imposing.

Here’s what it might look like…

Imagine an online social network where your “friends” truly are only your closest friends — your confidantes, the people you care for most and who care about you, your trusted support network or tribe. This is definitely about quality, not quantity.

Imagine that you could download a small app or widget that would allow you to specify your current level of available emotional energy, attention, and time — that is, what you have to offer whoever in your circle might need it. It would also allow you to specify your current emotional needs from a customizable category list, and rate them low / medium / high. You could even transmit notes like “Need encouragement to finish filing my taxes” or “feeling lonely on the anniversary of my divorce” or “shoulder massage badly needed” or “I haven’t had a good laugh all week.”

This information would not be published in any way — it would only be available to the people whom you specify, through this app. It wouldn’t be available to search engines or for syndication.

When the people in your close circle are connected through this app, you could look at the app’s dashboard whenever you feel like you have some energy, attention, and time to offer, and indicate the current resources you can offer. The dashboard would display the current needs of your close friends, ranked according to how well they match with your emotional availability. Then you could take action — from arranging a coffee date to sending a text message to stopping by to give a hug and listen — to respond to that need.

Friends with significant needs or crises would be flagged (perhaps even via mobile alerts), so you’d know if a loved one needs immediate attention and realign your current priorities if needed. Because when you experience a death in the family, the end of a significant relationship, a serious illness or accident, the loss of a job… just reaching out to contact your closest friends can seem daunting. What if you could simply alert your entire support network with just a few clicks?

…Obviously, more would need to be fleshed out — like tracking needs that have gone unmet for more than a day, or having multiple friends collaborate to meet someone’s need. But what do you think of this nascent idea? Does it already exist? Could it?

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5 thoughts on Idea: Nurturing App for Social Media

  1. I know there are online groups for people with certain diseases like cancer of course. An app that allows you to connect to specific friends and lend them a hand seems like a good idea to me. We had several supporting us last summer during a health crisis, and I also was thinking of how you connect or reach out to those very close friends online.

  2. instead of a new service or tool, it would be great to piggy back this functionality onto an existing one. for instance — a facebook app that let you zero on your truly close IRL friends & family.

    i also created a separate (private) twitter account 1) to follow fewer people, 2) to have a safe place to vent, and 3) to be able to communicate these types of feelings and needs to a small group of people that i approve.

    curious to hear others thoughts.

  3. I’ve thought about that, but something like piggybacking on Facebook or twitter would require that everyone in the circle also use those services, and I don’t think that’s practical. For instance, if it were a facebook app it probably wouldn’t work for me since I rarely use facebook.

    I’m thinking more a freestanding, platform-agnostic app like a dashboard widget.

    – Amy

    – Amy Gahran

  4. Amy and friends, hi there. Amy, this is a great idea! Also, thanks for being vulnerable in your post.

    I, too, have a hard time asking for what I want. Many of my friends struggle with asking for what they want.

    This nurturing app could be a great tool to help me continue learning to ask for what I want … and it may lead to getting what I want. Nice!

    A side note: I’ve been reading Contentious off and on for many years. I started doing Web-related stuff back in ’95. Your newsletters have always been very helpful. Thanks!


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