In her first article, Emna Sellami, a member of the LOG OFF Writers Group, reflects on her experience within the app Cappuccino and its revolutionary approach to social media.
It started, as most things do these days, with a friend texting me a TikTok. I immediately clicked on it and watched a girl gush about an app called Cappuccino, which she said let her talk to her friends in the format of a podcast that she listened to every morning. I excitedly texted back in the group chat the TikTok was sent to and in a few hours all three of us had downloaded the app. The premise of Cappuccino, which admittedly took us a few tries to figure out, is this: you create groups to which you can send “beans'', or maximum 3 minute long recordings, throughout the day. To each bean you can add a picture, caption, or prompt for the rest of the group to answer. The beans you receive from your friends remain “locked” until 8am the next morning. When you wake up (or whenever you so choose over the next few days), you can listen to each group’s cappuccino separately, or to your own “personal mix” of all the beans from all your groups.
I have been using this app for a few weeks now, and I think I understand the ins and outs that come with daily use to be able to provide a detailed review of it. This may be one of the best social media apps for teenagers and young adults to use, for the following reasons.
This first one is a quick and easy point to make: the whole point of the app is to wait to open the beans in the morning. They do offer the option of opening beans early, but it’s just not the same and you’ll find it’s really not hard to wait until the next morning. In this way, whole conversations can span a few days-- my friends and I have discovered that we tend to keep our bean conversations separate from other conversations-- which has definitely taught me patience and discipline. This is a far cry from the times I receive and answer a text in the space of a minute, then get antsy when the person on the other end of the line fails to do the same.
Allows for vocal communication
In his book Digital Minimalism, Cal Newport makes the case for conversation over connection. He defines conversation as face-to-face and/or vocal interactions (“involving nuanced analog cues, such as the tone of your voice or facial expressions”), while connection is “the low-bandwidth interactions that define our social lives.” Reading this book while experimenting with Cappuccino was an interesting experience. At first I was convinced that this new app combined both conversation and social media into one happy medium. After a closer look, however, I am forced to conclude that beans are still “connections” and not real conversation. Even though the app focuses on vocal interaction, it is primarily one sided and does not allow for the nuances of real time discussions. But I still think it is a step in the right direction. After a year of quarantining and not seeing people as often as we are used to, even hearing someone’s recorded voice directed at you is a lot better than just seeing them tangentially online.
You don’t have to be looking at a screen to use it
I can understand the instinct to be swiping, typing, and clicking at all times. Especially in the middle of a pandemic, it’s hard to remember a time we did not have to be doing those things to keep in close contact with our loved ones. However, I also know that constant finger contact to your screen gets old. Your hand starts to hurt, your eyes strain, your neck aches, and suddenly it’s been hours since you first sat down to respond to a DM. Cappuccino is convenient in that you barely have to be near your phone to use it. When recording beans, you can simply press the record button and start moving around your room while ranting about that one kid in your zoom class, with your phone resting safely on your desk. In the mornings I just press play on my personal cappuccino (my eyes still half closed) and let my friends’ stories wake me up from my sleepy state. With airpods, it’s even better because the airpod microphone can still pick up what you’re saying while your phone is far away. While this feature may seem trivial to some, I think it underscores how much our generation wants to be connected to friends without being physically connected to our phones all the time.
You control who you interact with.
Unlike most other social media apps that keep public records of what you’re doing (think: streaks, tagged posts, and like history), Cappuccino is unique in that none of your friends can see your activity on the app (aside from the beans you send them, which is kind of the point). No one can see which beans you’ve listened to, there is no “online/offline” status, and your groups are kept private to you. This is a much needed reprieve on a social media app-- I know from experience how tiring it is to keep up an internet “image”. And since you choose which groups you join through a group code, you can carefully select which friends you share your day-to-day life with.
To emphasize how important of a feature this is, I want you to imagine you went out on a beautiful hike with your family today. You climbed all the way up this amazing mountain with breathtaking views. You pulled out your phone for a few pictures, and as you went back down you thought about posting one of the pictures on your Snap story for all your friends and acquaintances to see. After all, you just did something incredible and you want to share it with people who weren’t there- an understandably human trait. It is at this moment, however, that I would urge you to record an out-of-breath bean, maybe featuring your family’s chatter, instead of posting on your story. This way, only your closest friends (the people whose opinions matter most to you) hear about your adventure. You won’t be constantly checking to see who has viewed your pictures, or who has swiped up (your friends will only hear about it the next morning, which is fine). And best of all, you’ll be able to hear your own bean the next day in your morning brew, reminding you of the fun you had.
While Cappuccino is definitely not a perfect app, I’d say that it trumps most of the traditional social media apps we’re used to. If you end up downloading it, it is important to view it not as a supplement to your existing social media accounts, but as an alternative. Instead of posting to your stories on Instagram and Snapchat, record a bean to send to your friends. Instead of scrolling, bored, through Twitter in the hopes of reading something funny, listen to your morning mix for what are sure to be hilarious anecdotes of the day before. And when you’ve done both, be sure to log off and do something worth recording a bean about.
About the Author: Emna Sellami
Emna Sellami (she/her) is a Tunisian-American freshman at UC Berkeley majoring in Environmental Engineering Science. She is no stranger to deleting social media accounts and is proud to have only spent one night ever on TikTok before deleting that, too. She enjoys reading and watching the sunset over the Bay from the laundry room of her dorm building.