Social media scrolling can be a daily part of our lives, but that doesn’t mean it’s authentic. There doesn’t seem to be any place for talking with friends and sharing your feelings. Filters, paid influencers, annoying ads, trolls — they all take the real “social” aspect out of social media.
That is exactly why Detroit founder Ziarekenya Smith set out to create a new social media app.
After graduating with high honors in digital art and design from Full Sail University, which is known for its entertainment, media, arts, and technology programs, Ziarekenya realized he didn’t see himself doing this kind of work in five or ten years. He didn’t want to just wake up and pay bills: “I need to get up for a purpose,” he said.
During this time of soul searching, Ziarekenya said he had a lot of doubts, anxiety, and moments of pressure that he wanted to share on social media. But norms tell us that these feelings don’t belong on social media. Current platforms really only highlight the highs.
“Life is a series of peaks and valleys,” Ziarekenya said. “That’s what makes us human. Social media isn’t going anywhere, so we need to make things balanced. It can’t only highlight the good. It should normalize moods and human emotions.”
So Ziarekenya set out to build a new social media app. Six years later, Inpathy was born.
A Social Media App Built on Trust and Community
What exactly is Inpathy? It’s a new way to social media. When you log on, it asks you how you’re feeling. Ziarekenya knows that “How are you doing?” is an important question. Your mood is displayed on your profile, which helps make the app more transparent and normalize the spectrum of emotions that we feel. It also helps start conversations and build empathy among users.
“Moods constantly change, and this app shows the full range of that. I wanted to focus on lows because we have the highs already,” Ziarekenya said. “The down moments are beautiful. Great books, movies, songs, great stuff comes from these emotions. There is so much knowledge in these down moments.”
As for the social aspect, there’s no such thing as following or adding people as friends. In order to connect with people, you have to interact with their page, and they have to engage with you, too. That brings you into each other’s circle, and focuses the connection on communication.
Once you’re connected, you can engage with people’s audio and visual stories. These stories are exclusive to Inpathy and can’t be shared elsewhere in order to protect people’s privacy. There are no counts for views, no likes, no checkmarks. It’s all about building trust, treating everyone as equal, and connecting on a human emotion scale.
“When you take away money, status, etc., what you have left is community, emotion, your stories. Inpathy is built from those three basic human principles,” Ziarekenya said.
For launch, the app is invite-only to help build up that community and create that safe space. From there, it can slowly build.
One of the best parts? No trolls.
“Trolls break that trust in the community. They take away that safe space for people, so we have a zero tolerance policy for trolls,” Ziarekenya said.
Launching the app
Ziarekenya’s decision to launch the app in Detroit was a very conscious one.
“Great things are built in Detroit,” he said.
While the app is set to launch in fall 2021, Ziarekenya is still looking for financial backers. He has yet to find the right VC investor so is running a crowdfunding campaign. He’s looking to raise $250,000 to help hire a team of engineers and developers, the “engine to go” as he calls it.
“There are so many solutions out there that are not accessible to all people,” Ziarekenya said. “Inpathy is free, for everyone, and in your pocket. Isn’t that worth investing in?”
Supporters of Inpathy’s crowdfunding campaign get an invite to Inpathy Beta with a donation of $10.
“People want a new experience,” Ziarekenya said. “It’s all about normalizing our human emotions, and creating a human experience.”
For more information about Inpathy, visit www.inpathy.co. To explore more tech jobs in Detroit, discover jobs at new and top startups in the city.