Why Video Chat Apps Are the Next Generation of Social Media

future of social media

It sounds like guided meditation.

You walk the floor of a virtual corridor lined with doors, behind which await all the most important people in your life.

You can enter any door you choose, at any moment, and begin a face-to-face conversation with your sister across the country, your mother back home, or a close college friend now living overseas.

It’s not a guided meditation session. This is the merging of video calling and social media. These rooms are video chat rooms, and the corridor is the main platform of a smartphone app. Video calling is coming of age, and is emerging as the central part of a new kind of social media, one that disregards tweets, posts, likes, and pins in favor of real-time face-to-face communication between people.

Video Calling and Messaging Services

The past two years may one day come to be regarded as the most important period in the adoption and evolution of video calling. A string of leading social media messaging and chat services added video calling as a feature, including Facebook’s twins Messenger and WhatsApp, as did workflow platform Slack, while Google introduced a streamlined 1-to-1 video caller to take on Apple’s FaceTime, and tech giant Amazon finally entered the video calling market with Chime.

More portentously, two new video calling apps arose that use real-time video communication not as an upgrade to the telephone or an added feature within a chat service, but as a destination in itself. HouseParty and Airtime may have experienced some growing pains over their first years of service, and neither currently sits atop the download charts, but they have demonstrated a new form of social media–a shared experience of the internet that uses video calling to recreate the living room, mall, or bar online.

Facebook and Amazon have made video calling a standard of social media, but the newcomers have created that virtual corridor and those virtual rooms we mentioned earlier.

Video Chat Rooms Are Replacing Real-World Living Rooms

Houseparty and Airtime are really part of a triumvirate. Rabbit got there slightly before either. Like its soulmates, Rabbit is intended as a meeting place, for both strangers and close friends. Like the others, it is divided up into video chat rooms, each of these user-created, and themed around specific topics or genres of music and media, or just groups of friends.

They are all places to just hangout–virtual third places distinct from the privacy of home and the public world of the office. There are no invites or requests, you just enter the app and start sharing.

In the case of Airtime and Rabbit, that includes sharing live streamed media, including video and audio from sites such as Twitch, Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, Soundcloud, Spotify, and more. Each service can be simultaneously viewed within a chat room filled with video callers who can talk among themselves as the music or movies play.

The key, however, is that these apps have created places to connect, relax, host a virtual dinner party, or recreate the feeling of driving home together or sharing a weekday afternoon. They represent a new form of social media, because they have an accent on sharing passing moments among friends, rather than broadcasting opinions into the ether.

A New Type of Social Media

The average person spends around two hours a day on social media. If they’re 24 or younger, that figure rockets to nine hours. That far outweighs the amount of time spent socializing in a real-world setting.  And it seems safe to assume the figures will tilt still further in favor of virtual socializing as technology becomes even more accessible and interconnected.

That’s why we expect to see these new breeds of video calling-powered social hangouts come into greater prominence. They offer a more fulfilling social experience.

Imagine yourself walking that virtual corridor on a slow Thursday evening, looking for someone to talk to or watch a movie with, and being presented with an instant connection to anyone within the internet-enabled world. The only thing keeping that from currently becoming a reality is your own ability to get your loved ones on board.

Every social network is only as strong as the people you know on it. Now that we’re all accustomed to social media and have been introduced to the concept of video calling by the major apps, it’s time to add greater depth to the experience and carve out our own chat rooms. In the future we’ll all walk these virtual corridors and drop in on one another for real face-to-face conversation and connection.

Subscribe to VC Daily