By Gabrielė Gedvilaitė
Sharing, liking, following or tweeting is a part of many social media users’ daily life. A relevantly new mobile application called Plag introduces a new way of spreading the information: by ‘infecting’. This social network is based on the concept of a virus: your location determines to what extent you are exposed to the content of other users.
Online social media networks such as Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter or Instagram are based on the followers or friends you have and you want to share your information with while the idea behind Plag is that the content is shared with other plagers who are around you. May it be your university campus, your town or the whole country, it is up to a user to decide.
As stated on App’s website, Plag is an instrument to communicate with the whole world and no friending or following is needed as potential receivers of your content are already in. There is no hierarchy and it is up to every user to decide which messages are worth passing on. Similar to what Tinder offers, you can swipe the news (pass it), skip it or shake it.
Users are involved in the content accumulation in two ways: by spreading the information they receive and by creating their own content. By attaching pictures, links or writing short messages (up to 140 characters) they can ‘infect’ those nearby.
The App has been developed in Lithuania and it was awarded as the best start-up of 2014 in Lithuania. The kick off was remarkable with 50 000 users in the first weeks and significant attention from foreign investors. Indeed, it is an addictive tool, though there are some flaws.
Every user has a freedom of choice to decide what is relevant, interesting and worth sharing. That is where the first problem arises. I tried the App myself and soon received content which consists of motivational quotes, random pictures or memes. Though, ‘real’ news, mostly about recent terror events, were also widely shared. However, not being able to choose which type of messages to follow is not something social media users are used to, therefore the unfiltered information can easily become annoying.
Additionally, since the goal of the App is to make the information go viral, the content disappears after 7 days. There is no option to save it, so nothing stays on Plag for longer than one week. Therefore you will never be able to trace the content back if you do not make a screenshot of it.
Finally, it all depends on how many users are in a nearby location. I swiped through the content spread in Amsterdam very quickly and was advised by the App to try again later or switch to the world area. Though I wish, there were more messages to go through: maybe there is a public transport perturbation, a new exciting exhibition in town or a great concert tonight.
That is how much potential this App has, though, it seems that it is somewhat undiscovered. Unstructured flow of all sorts of information is quite unusual and irritating. An improvement could be made by introducing some categories, since at this moment everything, from recipes of salad or pictures of nature to most recent news in politics, is mixed and blended into one flow of posts.
The best description of my user experience can be found on Plag blog: “It’s like an international debating society. And it’s anarchic. You never know what you’re going to talk about next and with whom. And sunsets. You get to see a lot of sunsets.”
Gabriele Gedvilaite is a Lithuanian journalist currently based in Amsterdam. Find and contact her on LinkedIn.