Joining the herd: testing a new kind of social media


A recreation of the Herd Social logo.

Katrina Sanville, Arts Editor

Between Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, Snapchat and dozens of other social media platforms, the market can seem a bit saturated to the common user. And as each app updates to match with its competitors, this could not be closer to the truth. However, what if there was a new social media platform, free from the mental stress of likes, followers and views, and as an added bonus offered the constantly online Gen Z a way to make friends based on similar interests?
As it has come to be pretty well-known, social media as most of society uses it—especially the younger generations—can be fairly toxic. For many young people, much of our self worth comes from numbers on a screen—likes, followers, views, etc.—rather than our true worth. There have been dozens of studies and articles showing the negative impact of social media on the brains of humans, as explained by McLean Hospital:
“Social media has a reinforcing nature. Using it activates the brain’s reward center by releasing dopamine, a ‘feel-good chemical’ linked to pleasurable activities such as sex, food and social interaction. The platforms are designed to be addictive and are associated with anxiety, depression and even physical ailments” (1).
While TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter are fun, mental health should come first. That’s where Herd has come in.
Herd Social is a new social media app that was released globally on the Apple App Store on Dec. 19, after almost an entire year of the founders sharing their progress on TikTok for potential users to see. The app focuses on keeping social media intentionally casual and lighthearted without the toxic atmosphere of other apps, as well as focusing on connecting with real people rather than scrolling mindlessly and blindly consuming content.
Upon signing up, every user picks a username and then picks 15 interests to help cultivate their herds. These herds are specific interests and subsections to help form friendships and create bonds by means of a group chat with others on the app who have similar interests. Each Sunday, the group chat—known on the app as a “herd”—disappears to make way for a new one, unless the user decides to save the herd and keep the conversation going.
In addition to creating herd chats, the interests also help to cultivate a like-free, follow-free feed. Each week a user is given three of their interests that their feed is based off of, which again resets on Sundays, and a corresponding feed of users with similar interests and photos they’ve uploaded. Posts can be similar to Instagram in which the user simply posts a photo with a caption, or they can choose to respond to a question from the Herd staff and choose a corresponding photo, and the response will become the caption. Users can also message each other privately based on individual posts, as well as save posts to a private collection.
I had heard about Herd the way many other current users had: the TikTok algorithm. Though I don’t remember when I followed the account, I was intrigued by the idea of a fully casual social media platform focused on the social aspect of social media, so I’ve been steadily following the progress of the app. When it was finally ready to download, I was excited, as I have found myself drawing away from Instagram. Even though I do not see myself ever deleting the app, I do find it to be incredibly draining and I was looking forward to giving this new social media a try.
I have been using the app for just over a month, and I am really enjoying Herd so far! The discover feed reminds me of a messy Pinterest explore feed, with a bunch of interests thrown together into one niche feed. I’m very excited for my herd chats, since my interests range from being a college student, to cooking and baking, to being a writer, to focusing on journaling and mindfulness, so I can’t wait to see how my feed and chats reflect this. The app also sends out daily positive reminders at 11:11 every day, which has definitely been a nice message to see as a tired, stressed college student.
While the app is incredibly innovative and interesting, I also have a few complaints. “Liking” photos has proven to be very difficult. While this is most likely to force users to actually interact with posts, the button to save photos to the personal collection is a very small star, and it can be difficult to click sometimes. I also wish there was a scrolling or swiping option, but this is also due to the fact that the founders and creators want users to slow down.
In addition to this, the lack of push notifications results in my attention practically glued to the app, which is a major downfall. While I’m sure it was to keep users from constantly thinking about messages and to create a positive atmosphere around the app, once I notice I get a direct message, I am constantly checking for responses. I do enjoy having the positive reminders at 11:11, but I also wish direct messages and herds received push notifications as well. One of the main goals of Herd is to make friends in a less toxic setting, and leaving someone with similar interests without a message for several hours because I didn’t open the app can be inconvenient in doing this.
While not as major of complaints, but certainly a bit annoying at times, the algorithm is also a bit wonky, which is to be expected with a new app. My personal post ended up in my explore feed, and the algorithm thought it was from another account, rather than my own post. However, it’s still the beginning stages of this app, and I am sure this will work out soon enough. I also wish there was a dark mode feature to the app, as a faithful dark-mode user. However, this is incredibly nit-picky, and I’m sure it will come out in a later update.
The best part about Herd for me has been how casual it truly is. You don’t need to be an incredible photographer or have a perfectly tailored feed to post. You can post what makes you happy, when it makes you happy, and go about your day. Social media is less about perfection and more about being social again.
Herd is available for free on the Apple App Store globally, and the team is working on getting the app to Android users.