Forced delayed gratification as USP

A lot of features that we come across or use or like on digital/social media/messaging platforms/apps mimic the offline equivalents.

The ‘save’ icon is a floppy disk in most apps/digital services, even if many millennials don’t have a clue as to what a floppy is.

Many email clients use an envelope as an icon, indicating the idea that an email is like a postal letter.

Many camera apps still use the physical camera’s shutter sound and/or visual as an icon.

Even features mimic offline acts.

Stories, on Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter (Fleets) are nothing but how we talk to a group of people offline – we say something, it stays on those people’s minds and goes up in the air. Offline, what we say goes poof instantly – the spoken word. On digital/social platforms, they vanish after 24 hours. Why 24 hours? There’s no logical reason for this – it is as arbitrary as Twitter’s 280 character limit. It is what it is – use it that way, or use some other app that doesn’t place a restriction on content visibility.

But the 24-hour limit on Stories content is artificially manipulating our behavior. It forces us to catch up with content before it vanishes, increasing FOMO. This, even as the Instagram feed itself has content that does not vanish in 24 hours.

You could argue that Stories could be used to utter things that you don’t want to exist permanently (risky/thoughtless/fleeting things to say) – but the old adage is that anything you say digitally could stay permanently online forever. People could screenshot what you said and float it on permanent modes, and this happens quite frequently to many Stories.

Stories are obviously a huge success across platforms – that so many platforms have this feature is proof enough. Despite the feature manipulating us so obviously.

In this context, I stumbled on an app that mimics the way old physical, disposable camera!

The app is called Dispo (iOS only, for now), and it was launched on Producthunt in 2020.

How does it work?

It’s a camera/photo app where you get only one option – flash on or off. You take photos.

Then, the unthinkable happens – you cannot see what you shot! The app forcibly mimics the disposable camera and has built-in delayed gratification against conventional wisdom or common sense. So, you need to wait till 9 am the next day to see your photos being developed in the form of a ‘film roll’! The app sends you a notification when the ‘rolls’ are developed and you then get to see what photos you clicked! Imagine the photo studio calling you to inform you that your roll has been developed and you could pick up your photos, but, for a digital camera inside your smartphone!

Interestingly, you are forced to allow notifications in this app unlike many other apps – if you don’t, you won’t know when the ‘roll’ is developed (you could perhaps manually go and check, I’m guessing).

You can group your photos in ‘film rolls’ and like, share, or comment on them. So, it is like you showing your photos to your group of friends offline.

The app recently got a sudden burst (pun unintended) of interest after it hit the 10,000 user mark on Apple’s TestFlight.

So an app that forces you to wait to see your photos till 9 am the next day, and one that does not give you any options (or filters!) during the shoot or after (in terms of editing)… is an antithesis of every other camera/photo app that exists now. But why? Because the app makers can – there’s no other reason that can be explained by sense or logic!

I assume someone should make an email app that you can send emails through, and it mimics a postal letter and reaches the recipient much later, based on their physical distance from your place. And call it ‘Lttr’, perhaps?

Considering Dispo got US $4 million seed fund from Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, Lttr could have an interesting future too.

What next? A Netflix movie premiere that is broadcast only once, at a pre-defined time? (That’s how television works, but considering we’re mimic’ing things for the sake of novelty, why not?)

How about a special Like button on posts which, when clicked, deducts a pre-defined sum from your connected card and sends an actual human being to your place to pat you on your back/shoulder while the ‘delivery’ person announces your name? Name? Phlike (Physical Like)?

I know I’m riffing sarcastically, and I really do see the ‘fun’ element in Dispo. My only point here is that this mimic-act is so utterly forced to induce and generate an artificial layer of ‘fun’ only because we are so brain-dead with the other ‘fun’ options out there.

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