Facebook, the world's biggest social network, is so vast that finding your brother-in-law's second cousin can sometimes be easier than finding people who share your particular interests. Enter niche social networks, where kindred spirits unite on such topics as anime, crochet, and foreign films.
Obsessed with video games or the finale to Nurse Jackie? You guessed it--there's a social network for it.
Wakoopa is a social network for people with a strong interest in computer usage. Users install an app on their PC that reports what software they use to Wakoopa, and Wakoopa shares that data with other users. The result? You get a list of what your peers consider cool, along with new software program suggestions. If you're concerned about your privacy, this social network might not be the best fit: The other part of Wakoopa's business model involves selling user-nonspecific information to clients who seek to "understand what people do digitally." Wakoopa goes on to say: "We don't make spyware, but 'myware'." Myware, hopefully, gives users a little more control.
Let's say that you're an attractive person who doesn't want to mix with the undesirables. Assuming that you have no shame about admitting to that desire, Beautifulpeople is the place for you. All of the hotties already accepted to the site vote on potential new members to ensure that only the cream of the crop gets in. Then, once you get past the velvet rope, Beautifulpeople lets you luxuriate in a dating site free of all the (physical) riff-raff.
With GetGlue, you don't check into physical localities. Instead, you check into your favorite movies, TV shows, and more. Doing so enables your GetGlue friends to see what you're doing for entertainment right now instead of depending on you to log your interests as on a Facebook fan page. The kicker to this site is that checking in gives you access to discounts associated with your different interests--plus actual stickers related to your favorite shows and bands, so you can cover your stuff with them.
When it comes to science fiction, few things can match the instant geek credibility of an endorsement by William Shatner--and Myouterspace has that precious commodity going for it. It's also unique in being a combination of sci-fi-themed social network, sci-fi blog, and online video network. Of course, hiring Captain Kirk to shill for your social network could also be read as an act of desperation, but the video introduction by Shatner riding a Chevy space scooter is worth checking out, even if you don't join.
If you want the perfect social network for gamers, look no farther than GamerDNA. To use the site, you simply check in to all of your favorite games. You'll see how many people play them around the world, along with what they have to say about the games. Once you've signed up, GamerDNA gives you tons of cool ways to visualize your gaming history--from a calendar of all of your gaming sessions to a Twitter-like feed reporting what you and your friends play.
New technology is great for helping artists create new stuff, but they often struggle to get anyone to notice the work. Long-running artist community DeviantArt is a great place for creators to gain exposure and to network with other artists. The site is packed with great tools that let you favorite the work of people you admire and to promote your own pieces. DeviantArt has also added a tool to help artists sell prints of their own work, though the site, of course, gets a cut of the profits.
If you want a little functionality with your socializing, Italki could be a great social network for you. It connects people who want to learn a new language with other users who are fluent in their language of choice--and vice versa. In addition to being a great way to learn a new language, the exchanges at Italki encourage learning about other cultures.
Hamsterster is a tongue-in-cheek social network for tail-less rodents that fall somewhere between gerbils and guinea pigs. Hamsterster is getting pretty long in the tooth (referencing Friendster in your name and on your About page is a great way to date yourself), and the site design looks somewhat dated as well; but if your hamster is lonely and doesn't feel like running the wheel, it's the place to go.
For scientists seeking a social network, Scitable owns quite a pedigree. The site is operated by the Nature Publishing Group, whose publication Nature may be the foremost scientific journal in the world. Scitable invites students and teachers to send each other questions and information, and it grants users access to peer-reviewed scientific papers.
Mubi provides a great venue for expanding your cinematic horizons, as it allows users to watch hundreds of films online. The site even won a Webby Award in 2010 for Best Film Website. Mubi's main focus is on older movies and foreign films that are otherwise hard to find. Upon logging in to the site, you quickly rate a few films to establish your taste. Then add a few friends and start watching.
A social network just for anime fans, Crunchyroll lets anime users connect with each other and offers them access to streaming video of their favorite anime shows from Japan--before they reach America.
GovLoop aims to be the Facebook of the Beltway, the state capital, and city hall: It allows people who work in any government agency at any level (municipal, state, or federal) to connect and share information. Of course the jury's still out on whether it's a good idea for government employees to use social networks at all--but maybe it'd be better to keep them off Twitter.
Lost Zombies is a zombie-themed social network with a purpose. The entire community is built around the creation of a community-generated zombie movie. Users can contribute film footage and photos that could be used in the final film, and the proprietors of Lost Zombies even maintain a zombie hotline that you can call to contribute your own zombie-centric voicemail messages.
Few things in life are more stressful than being a new mom. CafeMom aims to help by bringing moms together to share parenting information.Though plenty of social networks for new parents exist, CafeMom's million-strong community increases your chances of finding someone who's dealing with the same specific issues that you are.
The last few years have revealed many uses for social networking, but Ravelry is a crafty way to engage in social networking. It encourages knitters and crocheters to trade tips, supplies, and more. Rather than being built around a list of interests, Ravelry focuses on sharing your projects and supplies, and getting feedback and support from other crafters.
Finally, a networking site for the mustache enthusiast in all of us. It may look like just another social network, but Stache Passions is a social network and an online dating site that lets users show off their facial hair and specify their stache of choice.
If you can't find a social network for your own niche, you can always make your own. Ning offers templates that you can use to build your own social networks, complete with forums and messaging systems centered on any topic you want. Of course, Ning already has thousands of extant groups for you to join--from collectives devoted to specific bands to a gathering of people intensely interested in the TV show Ellen.
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