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Enclosed Types of SNS as a New Breed of SNS

  Both Band(left) and Between(right) are the typical examples of Enclosed types of SNS which limit the sharing targets.  

SNS (Social Networking Service) can give people some hard times. T-ara, a famous female singing group in Korea, suffered some bitter experiences because of the tweets they had twitted about. What could have been just a personal emotional dispute between members was spread publically and reproduced before thousands of spectators.

Up until now, SNS such as Facebook and Twitter have been gaining popularity as a means of communication. However, there are also an increase of the number of people who think it as a troublesome because of weaknesses such as privacy invasion and the spread of distorted information. Making up for these drawbacks, some changes in SNS are emerging. “Enclosed types of SNS” which allow limited networking only with family or close acquaintances are appearing more frequently.

Pre-existing SNS is now classified as “Open types of SNS.” These types of SNS are open to anyone and they can help users to network with each other freely and easily. Facebook and Twitter are the most famous Open types of SNS. Facebook has over 800 million users and twitter has almost 500 million users. Apparently, two main reasons for Open types of SNS are to earn popularity from all over the world because of its openness and expendability. 

With vitalized usage of smart phones, Open types of SNS have been influencing entire areas in society for the past three years. Taking advantage of humanities basic desire, their wish to get more attention from others and to be curious about others’ personal lives, has helped the open types of SNS to grow as a successful business. Open types of SNS made it possible for people to share ideas freely and boost up the speed of diffusion of opinions.

Meanwhile, as time has gone by, Open types of SNS have started to reveal their drawbacks. First, one’s privacy can seriously be invaded. Open types of SNS can be used for digging up one’s personal information and abusing it.

Second, there are a lot of damaging cases caused by the infinite network expansion through Open types of SNS. The more friends that people add through them, the more risk that their personal lives will be revealed. One student from Dongguk University said, “I once uploaded my personal experience on Facebook and I could receive thousands of ‘Likes’ in one day. At that time, some people sent me friend requests and I accepted them without much thinking. Now I regret that because my Newsfeed is now filled with postings from people who I do not even know and I feel uncomfortable uploading something personal. I know mine will be on their newsfeed as well.”

Third, Open types of SNS have contributed to not only free diffusion of good information but also some distorted information such as intended fake information or politically agitating messages. People were not pleased to be exposed to these kinds of contorted information.  Lastly, people sometimes had to frown upon unwanted postings such as movie spoilers, disgusting pictures, or the news of ex-lovers’ recent events.

Because it reflects the needs of people, the new type of SNS is receiving more attention. Unlike Open types of SNS which can be made available for anyone to be friends with others and share information with everybody, the new Enclosed types of SNS restricts the sharing targets by limiting the number of friends. That is why it is also called Vertical SNS or Micro SNS. The interesting point is that the purpose of usage for Enclosed types of SNS is not for expanding one’s network but for strengthening friendship with close acquaintances.

The major difference between the former one which is Open types of SNS and latter one which is Enclosed types of SNS lies in the possibility of extension. Not only Facebook but also Twitter allows people to add friends unlimitedly. It is possible that one can extend one’s network by adding friends’ friends. However, the latter one limits the number of friends they can add from the beginning so that people can find their value not in expanding one’s network infinitely but in pursuing intimacy inside the space. The former let people have one’s own community and other people come into it and leave messages or share information. Also, information can be shared between communities. On the other hand, the latter does not allow any information exchange between communities. The enclosed types of SNS allow several acquaintances to gather to create one community together and share ideas only within the community.

It is true that one can limit the spread of personal information after they set privacy protection, but people still prefer to use the Enclosed types of SNS when it comes to privacy problems. Sung Min-hyun, a researcher in KT added, “There is an essential distinction between the two types of SNS. The open types of SNS pursue openness and sharing. Meanwhile, the virtues of the Enclosed types of SNS are sealed space and limitation. It can be bothersome for people to set multiple options for privacy protection when using the Open types of SNS. That is why people think it is convenient to use the Enclosed types of SNS which is primarily designed for privacy protection.”

Remedying the Open types of SNS’s shortcomings, the enclosed types of SNS are winning public interest. One of the typical examples of the Enclosed types of SNS is Band which allows small groups consisting of family, friends or clubs to communicate and share pictures with each other. Band achieved a million downloads within only 40 days after they first released the app. Users are loyal as well. There are about 64% of users who use the app once a week and it is much higher use rate when compared to twitter’s, 26.5%

There are four main reasons why the Enclosed types of SNS seem fresh and attractive to people who are fed up with the open types of SNS’s demerits. First, it is less risky to use enclosed types of SNS to protect personal data. Second, people who are tired of thin and wide relationship have begun to feel the necessity of deep and narrow relationships. Besides, users have begun to prefer the quality of information rather than the quantity of information. Lastly, thanks to the enclosed types of SNS, it is now possible for people to acquire accurate and necessary information.

The Eanclosed types of SNS can be assorted into two categories, one that emphasizes the quality of relationship and privacy protection and the other that accents the quality of information.
The good examples of the former one are Between and Family Leaf. Between is an app for couples. It limits the number of users to two and inside the app, couples can communicate, upload pictures and check anniversary dates. All of the things they say through the app are protected with an encoded service. Family Leaf is only available for family units to share their memories and family affairs. Lately, relationships between family members have been alienated because of smart phones, but thanks to Family Leaf, the relationships can be recovered. 

Some instances for the latter one are Interest Me and Whosclip. Interest Me is designed for users who want to get reliable information from people with similar interests. Members are not strangers but close acquaintances and they share opinions on about 30 categories including movies, TV shows, music and fashion. Whosclip is an app that allows people to sell their belongings to acquaintances. It is a similar service to an online second-hand market but, it is much safer and cheaper since the deals are made between people with confidential relationships that have already been built up.

For pre-existing SNS, openness was an advantage but was a disadvantage at the same time. The appearance of the enclosed types of SNS complementing the flaws of the open types of SNS suggests a new way for the SNS industry to grow. According to the New York Times, “Micro SNS and pre-existing SNS will not compete with each other directly since their aims are not overlapping.” Likewise, it can be expected that these two types of SNS will coexist and improve to satisfy more users’ needs filling up each other’s lacking points.

Jeon You-na  jeonuna@dongguk.edu

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