Jerry Chien

Gravvity’s Jerry Chien is Creating a Healthier Social Media Experience

Jerry Chien has found a way to give consumers the same access to beneficial data that companies have.

Mr. Chien is the cofounder and CEO of Gravvity, an app which addresses the most negative aspects of social media. By creating filters users deploy to limit which pieces of social media they see, Gravvity frees them from what we are beginning to see is a meticulously designed process which monopolizes both our time and the data we generate.

He began his career by helping companies monetize their data. During that time Mr. Chien began wondering how he could provide consumers with similar access to data that could allow them to make informed decisions too.

Between corporate life and founding Gravvity along with Jason Herrington and Anja Vukovic, Mr. Chien worked at a cryptocurrency startup where he was introduced to the power of decentralization. How could that concept be deployed to help people gain more say over their data?

Creating an alternative platform from scratch is a tall order and you don’t have to do that in order to reach the goal, he realized. Why not instead create a filter which allows people to keep the parts of social media they like while turfing those they don’t?

There’s plenty on both sides, Mr. Chien said. On the positive, we keep in touch with people we care about and learn new things. But it also takes a toll on our mental health, productivity, sense of privacy and our relationships. More than 220 million people have been diagnosed with social media addiction but how many more actually are addicted? How many are addicted to their phones because of social media?

Think about younger people who were born into the generation of social media and smartphones. It’s the only world they know and for many their self-esteem is based on how many likes and shares their posts generate (the average person has downloaded eight social media apps, Mr. Chien said). Their mood spikes after positive feedback and plummets after criticism. If you’ve seen The Social Dilemma on Netflix it presents a compelling case. Dig deeper into the design of these apps and how they push content notifications to see how you are being manipulated.

“It’s all designed to pull people back to their app, spend more time on their apps and to ultimately change their behavior in a way that gives the company the best opportunity to monetize it,” Mr. Chien said. “On the surface it just looks like a really cool thing but it’s been designed to perpetuate that feeling of I’m missing something, I’m anxious about something, I need to be on this site to know how people are feeling and how I should feel.”

But most people derive positive value from these experiences, even though they have to scroll through plenty of noise to access those good nuggets. Why not give people a means to truly control which content they see?

“There’s no real path for people to do that and we believe we’ve created that path,” Mr. Chien said.

Gravvity correlates your feeds into one, and lets you select those people whose content you actually want to read. When one of those people makes a post you receive a notification so you don’t have to scroll down to see their most recent post. The feed is organized chronologically so you don’t have to scroll past information you’ve already either read or dismissed to get to items you value. If you last checked your feed at 3 p.m. you scroll back to 3 p.m. and you won’t miss anything. That addresses the algorithms which regurgitate old information in an effort to keep you on the site for as long as possible.

Jerry Chien

“It cleans up all the clutter and your need to be endlessly on your apps,” Mr. Chien said. “It gets rid of FOMO from certain social media experiences.”

Looking down the road Mr. Chien envisions Gravvity users choosing which types of ads and how many they want to see in their feeds. Advertisers will pay for that, and Gravvity will share half their revenue from each impression with that user.

“Because they have the data set from all the feeds this allows them (advertisers) to really cater social media feeds,” Mr. Chien said.

Gravvity intends on building out a data wallet so the user can go into a store and receive customized offers. Coming from the insurance space, Mr. Chien sees better insurance rates for those whose data sets warrant it. Your transaction activity could also be shared through your community so others can benefit from those lower insurance rates too.

“You can personalize that experience and you can reward people, incentivize people very dynamically,” Mr. Chien said.

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