Nostalgia and New Beginnings

Social Media’s Return to Its Roots

Remember the days of MySpace, where your Top 8 friends list determined social hierarchies, and your custom playlists could make or break your online popularity? From frenetic, kitschy-yet-charming “wall” designs to custom playlists, MySpace was the epitome of early social media, capturing the glittery hearts of millions. Fast-forward to today, and the winds of nostalgia are blowing in favor of those charmingly quirky times.

One company leading this revival is nospace, a new social platform currently in beta testing with nearly 400,000 eager users on its waitlist. Announced last June, nospace promises to bring back the personalized experience of the early 2000s, complete with customizable profiles, social ranking features, and a renewed emphasis on user creativity. With its summer launch just around the corner, many are wondering if nospace will recapture the essence of early social media or simply be a flash in the App Store pan.

But nospace isn’t the only platform looking to revive the past. Elon Musk has hinted at a potential resurrection of Vine, the beloved short-form video platform that was abruptly shut down in 2016. Vine, once a hotbed of creativity and viral (6 second) video content, has a dedicated cult following yearning for its return. Alongside Vine’s possible comeback, even Facebook is showing signs of nostalgia, dusting off the long-forgotten “poke” feature and giving it a more prominent role in the user interface.

This back-to-basics movement might signal a shift away from algorithm-driven feeds and influencer culture.

The question is, what does this retro revival mean for the social media landscape? This back-to-basics movement might signal a shift away from algorithm-driven feeds and influencer culture, focusing more on personal connections and user-generated content. Or perhaps it’s merely a trend, a fleeting nod to a bygone era … apps destined for the app store graveyard among the likes of BeReal.

While it’s too early to tell, the excitement surrounding these throwbacks is palpable. Nospace’s substantial waitlist suggests that many users crave a return to a more authentic, user-centric experience. Similarly, the buzz around Vine 2.0 highlights a desire for platforms that prioritize creativity and spontaneity over polished, highly curated content.

Despite this nostalgia, some features are best left in the past. The Facebook “poke,” for instance, may not be as warmly welcomed, with users preferring more meaningful interactions. And while Vine’s return is exciting, it remains to be seen if it can compete with platforms, like TikTok, which have taken short-form video content to new heights.

Another intriguing player, Airchat, made waves in April by reaching #13 on the App Store. Co-founded by entrepreneur and investor Naval Ravikant and former Tinder CPO Brian Norgard, Airchat offers a unique experience by allowing users to post voice notes instead of traditional text. Using AI, these voice notes are transcribed into text, creating a feed that combines both written and audio content. This voice-focused concept has sparked interest, suggesting a new way to connect online. The platform’s rapid rise is promising, but its subscription-based model at $49.99/year could hamper its long-term appeal. 

The resurgence of new social media apps with a nostalgic twist, like nospace, Vine 2.0 and even Hive Social, hint at a desire for simpler, more user-centric platforms that put connection with family and friends above ad-serving algorithms. The shift by mobile developers to build simpler apps also comes at a time when, in the midst of a pending U.S. TikTok ban, data privacy and security is a high concern. The skew toward simplicity and the move toward user-focused social media is being championed by nospace founder Tiffany Zhong, who believes “we have a loneliness epidemic on social media.” Speaking with Bustle, she said, “What I see right now is all social media is just media — it’s not social anymore … Everyone is ogling at each other’s lives and personalities, but no one is engaging with them.” 

The jury is still out on how brands could connect to people in a more user-centric landscape, and whether the current social titans, Meta and TikTok, will rethink their own apps in order to meet users where they are in their journeys. Will the new (and returning) platforms succeed in bringing the “social” back to social media? When we find out, we’ll post it on our customized ‘wall’ and let you know.