Another social media start-up seeks to dethrone Facebook

Another social media start-up is hoping 2011 will be the year that Facebook is dethroned as the ruler of all social media sites. After Google’s valiant effort this past summer, which seemed only to leave users disgruntled and sulking back to Facebook’s beloved walls, the site seemed to have survived another year. However, in September rumblings of a revolution in social media started again. This time the company is not an offshoot of a well-known Internet sensation like Google, but rather a fresh-faced start-up striving to be the “anti-Facebook.”
Unthink, a social media site in the works since 2009, says the site is “not a social network, it’s a social revolution.” No doubt this fall finds the public in a revolutionary, anti-establishment mood, but simply proclaiming oneself revolutionary in the social media world has failed in the past.
The site aims, like Google+, to fix one of the major issues with Facebook: privacy. One of the most obvious ways they seek to solve this issue is by giving users three different profiles to manage in their “suite”: Social, Professional and Lifestyle. The company hopes that by allowing users to create three separate online personas for each situation, they can prevent some of the shortcomings of a public online identity.
While the site is still in beta testing and not all aspects are fully functional, this system as it stands is nothing more than cumbersome. Beyond offering to import images and videos from a user’s Facebook profile (with the use of a Facebook application? Really?) the site does little to help users recreate their online identity not once, as was the case with Google+, but three times.
The promotional video used to advertise the site while Unthink remains closed to most potential users as part of beta testing depicts a young woman explaining the group’s manifesto. The woman starts with her idyllic, albeit naïve, view of what she thought the social media world would provide, only to become disgruntled by the realization she had been sold a bill of goods.
Her grievances include the commoditization of her personal information and sites literally chaining her to their product. The video later shows the young woman getting into a confrontation with a young man wearing a Google+ t-shirt while heckling a stand-in for Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, proudly displaying his quote, “They trusted me—dumb f**ks,” on his shirt.
But as dedicated as the site may be to being a vehicle for a social media revolution, there is another aspect of the Unthink Corporation’s operations. As part of their campaign to be the “anti-Facebook,” the group asks its users to agree to the oh-so-often glossed over text of a privacy policy, laid out as the American founding fathers would: including a preamble, deed, covenants and plainly worded policy. As charming and perhaps reassuring as this may be, there exists within the site a caveat.
Once the site launches, each user will be asked to choose a brand to sponsor their suite, negating the need for advertisements to sustain the users profile page. In exchange, the brand will be displayed to other users who view your profile. The brand’s information will appear under a section on each user’s page titled, “iEndorse Channel,” on the upper left corner of the profile, very close to where ads appear on Facebook.
Unthink also seeks to redefine each user’s social identity with mandatory profile classifications called “leagues” that are displayed next to the user’s profile picture. Predetermined leagues include “rebel,” “explorer” or “healer,” and each leads the user to subsequently define their level of personal innovation and dedication to sustainable practices.
Similar questionnaires also exists in the professional and lifestyle sections for each user’s profile, leaving users feeling as if they are being groomed for membership in a cult and not signing up for a new website.
Other interesting features of an Unthink user’s profile page include the option to record a video greeting and the “iBelieve” section that lets users cycle through predefined revolutionary mantras like, “Potential matters” and “Our way: partnership with nature,” to have on display.
The Unthink profile also marks the return of some golden oldies from the MySpace era like, “attitude toward children?” and your position on smoking.  So as not to seem frivolous, they also include a section to list what parts of your body you are registered to donate when you die.
What are even more entertaining are the Personal and Socializing sections of a user’s Social profile, which include turn-ons and offs, areas to describe physical appearance in detail, and what you like to do when going out on a date. For all Unthink’s talk about privacy, their conception of profile information feels especially invasive.
While everyone has their gripes about Facebook and the unstoppable loss of privacy, it seems unlikely that Unthink will lead to a revolution amongst online users as they advertise.  It may perhaps be the case, however, that like Google+, Facebook will take the hint about its users grievances with the addition of competition in the social media world.