“Reblog,” “like,” “retweet,” “swipe right” — this is the terminology of the current generation. Many USC students are familiar with Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter and Tinder. These are just four of the countless social media apps and platforms that permeate day-to-day life. They are diverse in their functions, but share a common thread — all are superficially woven. “Liking” someone’s new profile picture on Facebook or giving someone a “heart” on Tinder are ways of interacting with a profile that someone has carefully constructed to come across as attractive in some way.
But what if there were a way to easily form genuine interactions with new people, rather than simply reblogging someone’s selfie or retweeting a heavily premeditated 140-character chunk of thoughts?
Enter Anomo: a revolutionary networking app that allows individuals to anonymously interact with others in their vicinity, yielding real connections before a single photo is exchanged.
“Anomo is an anonymous social network where you reveal information about yourself over time,” said James Sun, the app’s creator. “The best example is that it’s just like a masquerade party, whereas other parties require that you have a name tag with a photo ID.”
Individuals on Anomo are represented by avatars rather than photos. To start meeting people, you select the “Find People” tab located in the left sidebar. The app generates a list of nearby users, listing only their username, gender, location and tagged interests. Once you’ve chosen an individual, you tap “Play” to begin an icebreaker activity.
“When you play an icebreaker, you answer five questions that are multiple choice, and Anomo figures out how compatible you are,” Sun said. “After that, you start chatting on our app. And if the chat goes well, that’s when people reveal their photos, their major, where they go to school, their name, their Facebook page, and then they follow each other on Anomo to keep in touch.”
Anomo is particularly relevant for college students, especially those at large campuses such as USC. USC students are surrounded by more than 18,000 other undergrads and more than 22,000 grad students, most of whom they will never meet. Anomo provides a convenient method of linking people with common interests, creating connections and community in an environment that can feel overwhelmingly large.
“The people you meet in college are going to become influential in your character, in your career, in the activities you’re involved with, and so it’s really important to meet new people in college,” Sun said. “So I think the problem that we’re solving is, we’re making it easier for people to meet people — especially those who are a little bit more shy. It’s so easy on our app to start interacting with people.”
Anomo is different from other social networking apps in that its purpose is to help its users meet people, whereas most other apps are intended to maintain connections in already-established friendships. Tinder, a mobile dating app, is a notable exception to this rule, but Anomo differs from Tinder in that it is not exclusively a dating app.
“The dating element is secondary — it’s more about people just finding people that are interesting whether it’s girl-guy, guy-guy, girl-girl — it’s about their interests,” Sun said.
In addition to engaging in icebreakers with other users, Anomo users can post statuses, photos and check-ins on their Anomo profiles. When one logs in to Anomo, you are greeted with an activity stream. This feed displays posts from people in your area, and only reveals each poster’s anonymous avatar, username, location and age.
One of the advantages of an anonymous social network is that people tend to post statuses and photos that reveal more intimate, personal details about their lives and struggles. Thus the social network can dually serve as a support network. The purpose of sharing on Anomo is not to boast — profiles are not linked with the user’s real name and image so there would be no point.
“[On Anomo,] people are more real — we have some students on there that talk about things like depression in college, or weight loss in college — those are things you would never post on Facebook or Twitter,” Sun said.
USC students who are looking to meet people their age can utilize Anomo to easily forge new connections.
“In college, a lot of students are looking for dating, for friendship, for professional networking within their friend group, and what we’re seeing is that students on college campuses are more open to meeting new people even more than high school kids,” Sun said. “So there’s something about being in college where you are the most open to meeting new people, and that’s what we’ve seen on our app.”
Anomo is currently available for free on both iPhones and Androids.