in March 2020, when the pandemic first hit, I (like most) felt pretty lonely and instead of working through it in a healthy way, I made sou.ls
For related reasons, I started spending a lot of time on Instagram. the Gram had always seemed intimidating and not worth it to me, but suddenly that's how I was maintaining relationships with my friends. I knew that, big-picture, me and my friendships were being exploited. But still, it's nice to see a friend napping with their cat, or taking a huge rip from a bong, or sharing a good COVID meme.
I mostly spent time in the messages tab, though I didn't really DM people much. i found myself looking at the profile pics of my friends, and noticing when last they'd been "active". When it said "Active Now" next to their portrait with the little green dot, I'd wonder if, like me, they were lying belly-down on their bed, and Gatsby-longing at these green lights too. their virtual presence was a source of comfort, proof that they existed, that i existed.
at the same time, it's troubling that i have this way of monitoring the activity of my friends, and with such granularity. not only do i know when someone is currently online, i can tell if they were online just 2 minutes ago, or if they haven't been online since yesterday. like a lot of Instagram's design, this normalized mutual mass surveillance doesn't seem healthy for anybody involved.
sou.ls is a lonely social network. Users are represented as colored circles in a void. the only way for users to express themselves is through their choice of a pseudonym as well as a color for their circle-avatar
when you log off from sou.ls, your circle will slowly fade over time. at 24 hours of inactivity, you will vanish completely and forever, your data wiped clean from the screen and from the server (the time period of 24 hours mirrors the functionality of Instagram's DM panel). you can also mouse over other circles, and if you rub gently enough, you can see when last they've been active