Too often, social media, which was meant to bring people closer together, actually drives them apart. Even a recent study found that increased Facebook usage leads to feelings of further isolation and depression.
A slew of apps and networks have come out to counter these. They include 1Mind, Glancee, Kismet, Highlight, with most of the apps falling into two categories: either they are dating apps that try to match users up with people they may be interested in in the area, or they try to connect with friends who may be nearby.
A new app, called OverNear, takes a different approach: it helps friends connect, but in the future. Think of it almost like a social planning app.
The app works like this: a users puts up a post of where they are going to be, and the app works like a virtual proxy. When one of their friends also puts up a post saying that they will be in the same area, there will be an overlap that triggers a notification. This then enables them to schedule meeting or meet up.
For example, if you are going to be taking a trip to Las Vegas at a certain time, the app will not only let you know which if your friends like in the city, but also which of your friends might be taking a trip there at the same time. This can also work in bars, restaurants and sporting events.
If you are going to tonight's Yankee game, you might not know that your friend is too. OverNear pings you so you can plan to meet up after the game. The app will not reveal a person's location unless they want it to.
I can already hear what people might say: isn't that what Facebook is for? Can't you just put up a post and hope that your friends will see it Kind of, but there is a problem with that: Tweets and Facebook posts are seen by a very low percentage of their audience, OverNear co-founder Bill Glaser told me in an interview.
"You have to either be online or scoll through your newsfeed. That is why these networks are making brands pay to reach an audience, with things like sponsored posts," said Glaser "It's all about taking existing relationships and find them at the same place at the same time."
Right now, OverNear is only platform to connect with friends and business contacts but that is going to change soon, and that is where the real value of OverNear will come into play: soon users will be able to follow celebrities and brands.
That means that if you are a fan of Kanye West, and he going to be making a personal appearance around where you live, OverNear will alert you. Or if you frequently shop at Macy's, and there is a sale at a store in your area, that will be another push notification.
The philosophy behind the app, Glaser said, is to combat that feeling of lonliness and isolation that can so often come up due to social media.
"People are only seeing the best of the best moments of their friends’ lives," he told me. "Most people are not sharing mundane experiences. They are picking the best photos, and only posting about most interesting things that happen, so it gives a distorted view when compared to our own lives."
To help "create a fulfilling bond" that the other networks don't, OverNear helps foster face to face experiences.
Of course, like I said above, OverNear is not the only company trying to foster these types of relationships. The difference, said Glaser, is that apps like Kismet, Highlight and Circle "send out notifications of where you are, not where you’re going."
And that allows for people to really make plans with each other.
"You might have planned a whole trip and might not have availablility if you're relying on an app to notify people when you’re there," he explained.
With the potential for the app to be used by brands and advertisers also comes the increase of potential monetization.
The app will make some money off of advertising, but there are two other methods that it could also take:
One would be point of sale, where the user would be notified of a concert or other show, then through the app buy tickets without having to leave. Glaser plans to partner with Livenation, Ticketmaster, airlines, hotels, and other businesses.
The company is also looking at in-app purchases. That could be mean that if a friend sets a post for where they will be, their friends could send them a geo-specific greeting that plays when they get there. Users could pay more for rich media and better graphics, for example.
Founded in 2010, despite having no promotion so far, the Santa Monica-based OverNear already has a pretty impressive pedigree.
The company has raised around $4 million, from notable tech personalities, including the co-founder of Pandora, as well as the former CEO of Logitech. In addition, the company is already being touted by the likes of Lewis Howes and Robert Scoble, who are on the company's advisory board, and Gary Vaynerchuk, who will be using OverNear to promote his new book.
And, despite coming out of what what Glaser calls "public beta," the company expects to have 250,000 users by the end of the year, and then 2 million users by the end of next year.