I must confess to not being especially riveted by the prospect of knowing what people like myself are thinking about or doing clear across the globe right this very second — especially if I do not now, nor ever will, get to know them.
So, initially I was a little reluctant to waste my time with try out Noodlewerk’sTworlds, a free iPhone app that connects people in disparate locations whose only shared attribute may be doing or thinking about the same thing at the same time, and recording it with the device’s camera.
But I tried it anyway. And the discovery that a single individual in the Netherlands or in Ireland or in New York was also pondering their pets or drinking coffee or at their desks working and was conscious enough to acknowledge, record and share the moment, inspired a distinct psychological response.
When you download Tworlds, you choose from among 26 predetermined themes like #cat or #work or #coffee, signifying a connection between you and your potential partner in thought. Then, you just snap a picture. Instantly, a related image springs onto the screen, sharing equal space with yours. All you know about that person is their city and country and what’s in front of their eyeballs at that moment.
The anonymity of this connection is actually cool; I found that I just liked to see someone’s cat or dog or work desk or coffee in real time and relinquished concern about their actual identity. And, for now, that’s the app’s intent. “For whatever reason you use Tworlds, there arises an experience between you and a complete random stranger somewhere else on this planet,” the app’s developer Antoine Peters, told TNW.
“Tworlds wants to break through the sociographic bubble of our curated (online) environment. The anti-social aspect, the anonymity and comparison, lowers the threshold having to ‘like’ or to ‘follow’ and challenges us to gift each other pictures of our everyday lives — unpolished glimpses into someone else’s reality.”
That means you must shoot the image in real time — you can’t reach back into your Camera Roll to grab a gorgeous shot that you fixed up with one of the hundreds of mobile image editors out there. You must use the app to shoot in the moment. You don’t get a lot of camera options, either: You can use the flash, tap to focus or shoot a selfie. That’s it.
“To keep Tworlds honest, it is not possible to use a photo from your library or by editing,” Peters said. “This puts ‘make-nicer-apps’ like Instagram and other self-marketing filters out of the game and makes [it] only real and unpolished moments from our daily lives.” And of course, you can share that shot with friends and family over your favorite social networks, if you want.
One thing that would be nice is if the app were intelligent about image orientation, as some people naturally shoot in landscape. Right now, the app composites two square images together without regard to the fact that they may be shot at different orientations. The app also does not function in landscape orientation except in shooting mode.
Comparing everyday life with a random stranger turns out to be an amusing and safe way to share private thoughts and feelings — even negative sensations of sorrow, anger or insomnia. Sometimes it’s nice to know that at times when you feel truly alone, you really aren’t.