Note: This post is Part Three in a three-part series about a social network called Path. It’s also about social networks in general and which ones are worth it. Be sure to read Part One and Part Two first.
This is an important quest. We are spending more and more of our time interacting with each other on the Internet. As such, I believe we must choose the highest quality methods of doing so. But which?
Part Three: The Path to Path
Parts One and Two of Greener Pathtures dealt with the nature of Path and other social networks, respectively. In this third and final installment, I will examine the potential role Path might serve in my realm of social networks.
As previously discussed, Path acts as a sort of all-in-one app, capable of handling virtually all social networking tasks. You can post a photo or video, check in with people and locations, post a song you’re listening to, post a thought, or log your sleep and wake times. By contrast, most social networks (Facebook notwithstanding) excel in only one or two of these areas. Twitter, for instance, is primarily text-based. Instagram is entirely photo-based. Foursquare is, to my knowledge, location-based.
So, we have Path’s Swiss Army knife approach versus the one-thing-well mentality of most other social networks and apps. To determine if Path will be useful to me (and perhaps you), I will compare each of its features to the app I am currently using to fulfill that need.
Photos: Path vs. Instagram
Instagram is the reigning champion of iPhone photo apps. I use it to post photos to Twitter. All of my friends use it. It’s great.
Path’s camera feature is similar, but with notable differences. Enter the bulleted list:
- Path has fewer filters. There are some bonus filters available for $0.99 in-app purchases, which admittedly look quite nice.
- Path’s photos are not square like Instagram’s.
- Path’s photo filters do not have borders.
- Path allows you to take videos and apply filters to videos.
Both apps feature tilt-shifts, flash options, and the ability to upload an already-taken photo. Both can post to Twitter, Facebook, or Tumblr.
One thing that surprised me was Path’s ability to take videos. I took a thirty-second video and posted it to my Path and Twitter with ease. If the app took time to upload the video, I didn’t notice it. It just hopped onto my Path like it was nothing. I could view it on both Path and Twitter. The whole process worked beautifully.
I never tweet my own videos because: A) I rarely take them, B) I don’t have a dedicated video sharing app, C) uploading videos to Twitter isn’t usually seamless. Path, however, really impressed me with this feature.
You can save other people’s photos in Path. As far as I can tell, Instagram does not let you do this.
Also of note is the fact that Path is not a dedicated photo app like Instagram. That means there is no Popular tab, news feed, or profile — at least, not in the Instagram sense. People can still comment and approve of your photos on Path, they just do it on your Path timeline. It’s similar to scrolling down your Facebook News Feed, where there are many different types of posts. This contrasts with Instagram’s feed, which is only photos.
Will Path replace Instagram for me?
Probably not. Instagram is too great and too widespread for me to abandon. However, Path’s photo features are respectable, and I can just as easily use it to share photos on Twitter as I can with Instagram. Plus, Path’s video capabilities blow me away. Instagram will probably remain my main photo app, except in instances of sharing video and when I only want people on Path to see my photo.
People & Location Check-In
I’m including this as one section because they’re very similar. “I’m with so-and-so”, “I’m at such-and-such”, or some combination of the two. Checking into places or with people on Path is characteristically fun and easy.
I need to take a timeout here to point out that many features in Path can be accessed from within the other features. Stay with me.
When you click the “+” button in Path, you get a wonderfully animated radial menu that offers you the Camera, People, Places, Music, Thoughts, and Sleep/Wake options. Selecting one takes you to that feature, but then you are always taken to the Post screen, where you can add commentary, who you’re with, where you are, or choose to also post to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, or Foursquare.
This seems puzzling, but I think it speaks to Path’s versatility. You don’t have to go back and forth between features when making a post. You always get the option to add People, Places, Thoughts, or post to other social networks before submitting your entry. However, you cannot, say, take a photo from the People screen, or post a song from Thoughts, if that makes sense.
It sounds squirrelly, but the more I think about it, the more logical it becomes. The radial menu has you pick your primary reason for posting, and then the Post screen lets you to add people, places, or thoughts to that post. For example, “Oh, I want to post this song to Path”, so I hit the Music button and select my song. Then, I decide I also want to tag my friend Rich, who’s with me, and say we’re at Friendly’s. The Post screen lets me add those details to my song post.
OK. Moving on.
Will I use Path for check-in services?
Again, the only check-in services I use are on Instagram or Twitter, and only if I feel it’s relevant. Path, however, makes it easy to tag friends and locations in posts, so I can see myself using these features more often. I actually already have. Again: versatility.
Posting music with Path is great. The song preview works well, and people can easily listen to what I’m listening to. I can post the song to other social networks with no problem.
I’ve been using the SoundTracking app for posting music, but I’m going to switch to Path. It’ll be one less app, and I don’t use SoundTracking’s other features enough to warrant keeping it. Path lets me post what I’m listening to, and it does it well.
And you know what? Path does everything it does well. Photos, videos, people, places, thoughts, music: it excels at all of them. Don’t think that because this app does many things, the experience of each thing suffers. If I can use Path for something, I’m likely to do so.
Thoughts: Path vs. Twitter
I can’t abandon Twitter. I love and rely on it too much. Path allows me to post virtually anything to Twitter though, including Thoughts, which are essentially tweets. This means you could use Path as a tweeting client, but not as a Twitter client because it doesn’t allow you to read your Twitter stream.
For me, it’s end-of-story: Path won’t replace Twitter, and it probably won’t for any Twitter user. Path does, however, make it easy to post additional things to Twitter. I see myself using the two in conjunction. Also note your audience with each service: you have varying degrees of friendship with your Twitter followers, but Path is reserved only for close friends. That should dictate which app you use for which types of sharing.
And now, the ultimate showdown…
Path vs. Facebook
Path and Facebook are, in some ways, very similar. Both services allow you to post virtually anything: photos, videos, links, check-ins, music, you name it. Both your Path and your Facebook News Feed will be filled with a variety of stuff from people.
But that’s where the similarity ends.
As I said in Part One, Path is a quiet, cozy living room full of great moments with close friends. Facebook is a raging house party. The dynamics of the two could not be more diametrically opposed.
On the Internet, there are people you know, and people you don’t know. Your Facebook is filled with people you don’t know. OK, sure, you “know” them, but you don’t give a crap about them.
Path is designed not just for the people you know, but for the people you genuinely care about. Well, why not just delete all your Facebook friends and start over? I guess, but the concept of Facebook has become so nauseating to me that I’d rather just leave it all behind. I don’t want to deal with the invites and the games and the ads and all the garbage. To me, Path feels like a green, idyllic pasture, free from the pollution of Facebook’s tainted, blue and white, Lucida Grande factories.
How can Path replace Facebook?
By being everything Facebook is not:
Real people instead of meaningless e-friendship.
Memorable moments instead of creepiness.
Quality instead of quantity.
Beauty instead of clutter.
Signal instead of noise.
Path needs no labyrinth of privacy settings because it does not encourage you to share your life with people who have no business being in it.
I’ve always preferred a small circle of close friends to a hundred sort-of acquaintances. Path shares that value.
So, now what?
What is to be the result of this long and arduous journey through the world of social networks? Well.
My current arrangement:
- Twitter, for communicating and sharing with the Internet.
- Instagram, for photos.
- Facebook, for communicating and sharing with people in whom I (mostly) have no interest.
- Twitter, for communicating and sharing with the Internet.
- Instagram, for photos.
- Path, for communicating and sharing with those closest to me.
Note that this new arrangement doesn’t necessarily see a reduction in the number of social networks, but it certainly does see an overall increase in the quality of my online life.
I will be leaving Facebook in the near-future, after I research how to properly save my photos, delete my account, etc.
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