Whiz Through Social Media

For many students, college represents the first time away from the friends and family that have formed their social sphere for most of their lives. Things can get lonely, especially for foreign students who have the additional barrier of language to contend with. In response to this, UCI student Oliver Moravcevic created a new social networking website to help his fellow students connect, based on common interests and activities.

Moravcevic felt that social networks like Facebook, which were designed to address this disconnect amongst college students, typically end up as a scrapbook for old study groups, bye-gone crushes and people you don’t really see that often. After all, we tend to use cell phones to contact people we actually spend time with. His website, theSocialWhiz.com, is a social network designed to give students an opportunity to socialize outside of their curriculum, which often dictates who your friends are in college.

“You can meet people in classes, but it’s not always easy,” Moravcevic said. “Even when you do, sometimes that class is the only thing you have in common with those people.”

Unlike other social networks, the Social Whiz is a web-based application (WAP), a website that functions like an app and is geared more towards SmartPhones than computers. The basic idea behind the Social Whiz is to use comparison software and GPS to give students an opportunity to connect over social interests. After signing up, you’re shown a simple map of the area you are located in which displays colored circles and a single blue dot in the middle. The blue dot represents you, and the circles represent other users’ proximity to you. Based upon the hobbies and interests that you list on your profile, compatibility with other users is measured and corresponds with the completeness of the circles on the map; the more complete the circle is, the more you have in common. Clicking on a circle reveals a username and matching percentage. You then have the option of checking out their profile, or sending them an instant message. If this sounds a bit dicey for you, Moravcevic assures users that it is not a tracking device and for safety, your real position is only an approximation within one mile of your actual location.

According to Moravcevic, the difference between the Social Whiz and other social networks is that the Social Whiz is not meant to be used as a social activity in itself like “Facebooking.” The main purpose of it is to foster friendships and community.

“You can use it for anything,” Moravcevic said. “You can find people in the same major and sell them your books or ask about a particular class or professor. You can see who is at the ARC and ask if any one wants to play a game of basketball or soccer. The main goal is to bring people together in real life.”

One feature of the Social Whiz that users will likely be split on is the no photograph policy. Moravcevic didn’t want the Social Whiz to become a dating site where users manipulated the comparison software to match them with the best looking people. To keep the matching based on common interests, the site does not support pictures or videos.

“This way you are meeting people because you really have something in common, not because you find them attractive,” Moravcevic said. “Also, this takes off the pressure of meeting new people since you aren’t worried about whether or not there will be an attraction. It’s all about making friends and meeting people who like to do the same things as you.”

Moravcevic, a foreign student himself, came up with the idea for the Social Whiz after conversations with friends revealed that he wasn’t the only new student at UCI who felt like he had a ton of acquaintances at school, but few friends outside of it. Together with his wife Ana Pesic, who is a Ph.D. candidate in economics at UCI, and his cousin Srdjan Moravcevic, a web-designer based in Austria, the Social Whiz was created in September 2010. The website has only been online since the beginning of this month, and is still running in its beta version.

“I spend four hours a day on Skype with Srdjan working out the bugs,” Moravcevic said. “We listen to our users, so a lot of it comes from them. We even give them credit on the site on our Wall of Innovation.”

The Social Whiz is still in its early stages, but Moravcevic sees its potential for growth. He would like to see it spread through the UC system and perhaps to other universities in the future, but for now he is focused on refining it to help improve the social lives of UCI students.

“I think it would be cool if you’re on vacation or studying in Europe and you could look on your phone and see that ‘Oh, there are three other UCI students a few blocks from here’ and then be able to meet up with them,” Moravcevic said.