What if you could have all the advantages of social media but keep your network tiny — to just the person closest to you?

Jared Kushner’s brother, Joshua, who is married to supermodel Karlie Kloss, decided he wanted a virtual space like that for the two of them and created a private-messaging app called Bedford that allows two people to interact using texts, video and photos. Content disappears 48 hours after posting.

The app — which Kushner announced on Valentine’s Day — is the latest offering in the world of so-called intimate social media, according to the MIT Technical Review. Others include Cocoon, started last year by two former Facebook employees, which connects up to 12 family members. There’s Ikaria, an app “built for close relationships” and True, a private, small-group app.

Acquaintances and advertisers can’t see content posted on these apps. Only the small number of people that the users select.

“Over the last months, I have been working on a Valentine’s Day project with some friends to build a safe messaging service for one special person in your life,” Kushner wrote on Twitter. “It can be anyone… a partner, friend, parent, grandparent, etc. Just a space without any distractions.”

Ikaria’s founders say they’re pushing back against the feeling of disconnection in modern society that prevails even though people are more connected than ever before on social media. They cite research about how developing “meaningful” relationships can lead to a longer and more fulfilled lives.  

Bedford and Ikaria were released within a week of each other, and that in and of itself is “a new form of societal criticism,” Joseph Bayer, an assistant professor at Ohio State University who studies social media, social networks and social technology, told the MIT Technical Review. He cited the fallout over data and privacy lapses by Facebook and other tech giants.

And there’s a question about whether these types of apps can be profitable, the publication stated.

  • Younger audiences on social media are interested in “more closed, and often more private and interactive online spaces” than older users, Sara Wilson, a brand and digital content strategist, wrote earlier this month in Harvard Business Review. She dubbed them “digital campfires.”
  • Social networks are attracting more capital as they continue their evolution over more than 20 years of existence. Private investments in the field have surged over the last three years: venture capital investments in startups surged 54% last year to $5.14 billion, almost triple the 2017 level, according to PitchBook.
  • Mega deals clustered around the U.S. and China. Six of the top 10 deals over the last five years were done by Chinese companies, including video sharing platform Kuaishou, and four were done by American companies including Reddit, PitchBook data show.

With contributions from Karma’s Scarlett Kuang