The world of social media and app production expands every time someone logs on to iTunes or Apple. USC alumnus Ben Rolnik, along with a group of others, has created an app called Vida that opens new doors in social media. In essence, the app aims to connect people in proximity to each other by presenting a quick, easy way to present their online presences.
Compared to the average social media app, Vida offers a positive and encouraging space for the world of friendship. Co-founder Rolnik said that the vision for Vida surrounds a “friendship revolution.” This idea spawned from his own days at USC as a social butterfly who wanted to get to know as many people as possible.
He believes that through Vida, one can start a more personal relationship that traditional social media rejects through its focus on fame and celebrity. Rolnik said Vida is a next generation social network that aims to encourage a culture of love and friendship, with an ultimate goal of facilitating peace between people.
“A lot of people have become their own personal celebrities. However, most people you meet aren’t superstars,” Rolnik said. “They are molecular biologists and interns and artists.”
Through Vida, one can be brought into creative union through social media with these intelligent, strong individuals in a way that transcends the traditional artistry behind social networking.
“When you are out at a coffee shop or a grocery store, especially at a school campus, 99 percent of the people around you are your classmates and peers. People you don’t know at all.”
Vida seeks to break the walls between these strangers. As a USC alumnus, Rolnik envisions USC becoming the most social campus in the nation through this platform of social networking.
“I remember when Facebook first came out and how exciting it was to communicate with people in such a fast and accessible way,” Rolnik said.
What most interests Rolnick is how technology has achieved a status of proscribing public identities. Through their public identities, young people have been able to share so much about themselves online. Each and every one of the “friends” you have on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat all experience the most influential and sometimes private aspects of your life, Rolnik said.
He believes social media discourages face-to-face interaction because people have become so comfortable in their online public identities.
“A lot of people, although they know someone on social media, have issues connecting in person, or have an awkward social attitude because they are not used to the face-to-face interactions,” Rolnik said.
Vida works as a Bluetooth-like application that links people instantaneously so that users can connect in person and discuss different parts of their lives via their Instagram pictures or Facebook posts.
Despite the positive vibes surrounding this project, Rolnik acknowledged the challenges faced in its conception.
“In contrast with traditional social media that leverages with an existing ‘hub,’ we had to create a new technology,” he said.
Rolnik and his team created a Bluetooth network to connect its users in a faster and more secure way.
“It’s almost like a Shazam version of social networking; it allows you to remember people a lot more easily,” he said.
In terms of the future of Vida itself, Rolnik says the plan is to serve people and humanity.
“Many people feel uncomfortable in social situations,” he said. “That moment people can embrace new situations everywhere they go and understand that no matter where they are, they have a friend, is when social awkwardness will start to change.”
Sometimes these are people you don’t know or haven’t met yet, but the comfort is that they are waiting to be discovered by other Vida users. This comfort is what he hopes Vida users will channel to expand positive energy and friendship, Rolnik said,
Rolnik credits USC to much of his success.
“I firmly believe we have some of the most intellectually creative students,” he said. “Not only is USC remarkable in the area of media and communications, but technology and innovation as well.”
Through USC, Rolnik also has experienced shared colleagues and business partners that have been part of and succeeded through the Trojan family.
USC also is important to the expansion of Vida as it will hopefully come to permeate the campus as a portal for friendship.
“What makes me more excited than anything in terms of Vida is what my life would have been like if I had this app on my first day as a freshman,” Rolnik said. “Hopefully Vida will come to be a pervasive and positive force not only at USC, but among all young people.”