Skip to main content

Can Venmo mimic a social network?

In a world of digitalization, Venmo is at the forefront of the movement away from physical hard cash exchanges. Instead of having to remember to bring enough cash in your wallet, you can simply “split a check” with your friends with the simple touch of a button on your phone. Venmo is unique in the way it has a social networking component. There is a default setting that makes all peer-to-peer transactions public. Undeniably, most users of the app find it too burdensome to change this as it requires multiple settings to become truly private. There are negative consequences to this feature.  Anyone can view your spending habits and many engineers have created algorithms to document payments referencing drugs or scandalous payments. All transactions that used to be very private. Other companies have used the model set forth by Venmo and now exist as better alternatives. Two include: Apple Pay Cash which uses two-factor authentication but its only useful for apple to apple transfers, and Square Cash, which emphasizes simplicity and efficienty in their user interface as well as a feature to discover nearby people using Bluetooth. That way, there’s less of a chance of mistaken identity which could happen if your trying to pay someone with a name like “Joe Smith”.

A user using the Venmo app can be analogous to the ego in the Ego-network. Towards the top of the screen, once in the app, there are four tabs: a globe, two outlined people, an outline of one person, and a money icon. The icon with two people shows the transactions among you and your friends and transactions amongst your friends. Stepping further out of that network is the global icon where you can see payments that your friends make with other people. However, you are unable to see the amount paid if the transaction doesn’t involve you. All that shows up is a vague description often containing emojis. The more removed these transactions are from the ego, the weaker the connection to the ego. Because of this, I wonder if the Triadic Closure Property holds for the ego’s friends of friends. If we say there is a strong bond between the ego and the first friend, and between the first friend and the friend “once removed”, the principle explains that the ego and friend “once removed” are more likely to become friends themselves. Yet, I don’t believe just using the app itself can bring these two together without any physical meeting. Do people really care who their friends are paying? And if most transactions are described with emojis is that enough for the ego to be curious to become acquaintances with that person? I don’t think so. It also states that two strong bonds in a triad with no connecting third relationship causes an instability. I would argue that all parties would not feel any stress if two people in the first friends’ social circle don’t exchange money electronically. Hence, can we really call Venmo a network if a simple principle true to most networks may not hold.


Leave a Reply

Blogging Calendar

September 2018
« Aug   Oct »