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A Social Network App for those Battling Addiction

New York Times
JULY 31, 2015


Is there anything that would make someone want to join a new social network at this point? We already have Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, as well as smaller alternatives like Ello. And the advent of apps like Snapchat has made public blabbing less appealing than engaging in private communication.

But Beau Mann, the chief executive and a founder of a new app called Sober Grid, says that for some users, joining this social network could be a matter of life and death. “It sounds somewhat dramatic, but it’s realistic,” Mr. Mann said. “Some people, their life is dependent on their sobriety. So that need to connect is how people get and maintain sobriety.”

Sober Grid is for those who are battling addiction. It has a public news feed where users can post messages about their struggles and successes with sobriety, a grid of photos of potential “sober friends,” a messaging platform and other features that will be familiar to users of Facebook and other networking platforms. It can be used anonymously, though many users include first names and photos.

The photos of potential friends can make Sober Grid seem like a dating app for teetotalers, an impression Mr. Mann would like to discourage. He hopes it will appeal to a broader group.
“There’s lots of sober people that are married, and if it’s a dating app, they won’t be able to go on there and get the support that they need,” he said.

Sober Grid was launched in New York on July 9 and has grown quickly. Around 5 percent of those who have signed up have opted to pay $39.99 a year for a premium membership, which permits posting four additional profile photos and visiting in “stealth mode” to guard anonymity.
Sober Grid can be a bit clunky to use, and the purpose of some of its sections is difficult to discern. No explanation is provided within the app, for instance, for a blank “visitors” tab. (It keeps track of users who have looked at your profile, unless they have done so in stealth mode.)
Even features within the app’s main section, the grid, can be confusing. There is a “burning desire” button geared toward users worried about falling off the wagon and seeking the intervention of others. But Mr. Mann said many users did not understand the button’s purpose. (Posting a message to the news feed appears to be the most effective way to attract help in a

Some may worry that building a network specifically for sober users will only add to the stigma they feel over being in recovery, and that people trying to beat addiction need not isolate themselves with a separate app. Mr. Mann, himself a recovering addict, described that notion as unrealistic.

“We definitely want to get to the point where there’s no stigma,” he said. “But that’s not the reality right now. The app is necessary because someone else that’s dealt with alcoholism or cocaine addiction and they’re sober, and they’ve dealt with those triggers, they can help.”

 

 

 

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