Opinion: Unthink, Occupy Wall Street and the coming age

Opinion: Unthink, Occupy Wall Street and the coming age of the anti-Facebook

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By Andrew Couts
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Early today, Tampa-based startup Unthink launched its new social network, which describes itself as the "anti-Facebook." Complete with deeds and manifestos of its philosophies and guidelines, Unthink promises to never sell your personal data for financial gain, to not "spy" on you or interrupt you with unwanted advertising. "We are not another social network," the Unthink website proclaims. "We are a social revolution."

Who owns your data?

Unlike either Facebook or Google+, Unthink says that users will have complete ownership of the personal data – things like names, ages, religion, political leanings and sexual orientation – that they add to their Unthink profile. Facebook, on the other hand, uses everything from personal data to users' photos to custom tailor advertising. It's one of the primary ways Facebook makes money – and the reason the social network doesn't cost a dime to use.

Despite the revolutionary talk of Unthink, the company will still sell advertising. Rather than serve ads based upon mined data, however, Unthink (which has reportedly received around $2.5 million in funding from venture capitalists) will allow users to choose which companies, if any, they would like to have "sponsor" their profiles. Users can also opt-out of advertising entirely, at a shockingly low cost of $2 per year.

The "anti-Facebook" message of Unthink appears to have resonated, as the site has been so heavily bombarded with traffic all day that gaining access has proven impossible. That is not to say, however, that Unthink will be successful, or steal even a single user away from Facebook – it probably won't. But I will say this: Change is in the air, and the desire for a new way floats just beneath the surface, ready to percolate to a disruptive boil the moment someone turns up the heat.

Capturing a wider sentiment

As you likely realized, a similar anti-corporate sentiment has already begun to make waves offline. In lower Manhattan, and in cities around the world, disgruntled people who feel abused by a system that allows institutions to make nauseating amounts of money at the expense of the masses – the 99 percent – have begun to chant, and scream, and march, and occupy, in an attempt to have their voices heard.

Occupy Wall Street and its sibling movements are a long time in the making. In the period between 1979 and 2007 – before the financial collapse that sunk the world economy into its current pitiful hole – the incomes of the richest 1 percent of Americans expanded by 275 percent while the incomes of the bottom 20 percent expanded by only 18 percent, according to a report out today by the Congressional Budget Office.

It is because of this inequality, and the system that it allowed the income gap to widen so obscenely, that an increasing number of people are leaving their homes to go live in a park and face rain, ridicule and the violence of police night sticks to fight back against the injustices they see in the American society.

Can Unthink move the masses?

At this point, it seems unlikely that such a rebellion will take place against Facebook and Google's policies that turn users into a commodity. But the fact that Unthink exists, and that it received such an overwhelming immediate response, suggests that the pot may be beginning to boil in that realm as well.

Of course, many forces stand firmly in the way of such outrage, with laziness, apathy and ignorance of users sitting comfortably at the top of the heap. I'd like to say with any certainty that Unthink will be successful in its so-called social media revolution; that users will shun the convenience, enjoyment and usefulness of Facebook on sheer principal in the same way Occupy protesters have given up the comforts of home to make their point – but I'd be lying if I did.

Then again, the Occupy Wall Street movement seemed equally unlikely just a few months ago, at least to those who weren't paying close attention. And if the emergence of Unthink is any indication, it would seem Mark Zuckerberg and his fellow 1-percenters would be wise to do just that, before the wrath of the masses put their feet to the fire. 

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