New Twitter Rival: Does New Social Network 'Path' Give Us What Was Missing?

You know how the more followers you have on Twitter, the more important you are? The same is not true for Path, the new social network that launched yesterday. The iPhone application is supposed to give us “The Personal Network” — Path users are only allowed to have 50 friends. But is this what we really want?

The idea driving Path is that it’s a place where you can share anything — you don’t need to censor yourself because only your closest friends and family can see what you are posting. The basic process of using Path consists of taking a photo on your iPhone, and tagging the people, places, and things associated with it. Admittedly, Twitter is a strange place to include these kinds of updates exclusively: most respectable Twitter users tweet a mix of professional or hobby-related messages and personal updates. Users who only tweet personal things can often look a little trite in the midst of the political commentary or celebrity tweets.

But is the Personal Network a solution? The idea of sharing more personal notes is a good one — and the exclusivity of the site is definitely alluring. Indeed, the company’s blog shared that the 50 friend limit is based on the research of Robin Dunbar, professor of evolutionary psychology at Oxford University, who said that 50 friends is the largest our personal network can really be. As the Path blog says, “These are the people we trust, whom we are building trust with, and whom we consider to be the most important and valued people in our lives.”

But although the idea of sharing our lives with just the people we care about most makes sense, part of the way we show that we care is by making the effort to reach out to them. In other words, you forego Twitter not for another easy-to-use social network, but to take the time to write a personal e-mail or send a Facebook message to a group of smaller people. You invite them manually to see your photo album from your last trip — heck, you send them a postcard. There are plenty of cool online tools — like this e-scrapbook site — for connecting with your inner circle, and part of the reason those people stay in your inner circle is you work a little to include them.

So if what’s missing from Twitter is the personal aspect, maybe that’s not such a bad thing. Twitter doesn’t have to be personal because people have been finding ways to communicate their lives to others for a long time, both online and offline. It’s probably better to connect with your friends through Path than not connect at all, but quality of updates are often worth more than quantity. And most of the time, your personal network deserves more than a people, place, and thing tag.