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Fed up with Instagram? Try Discord – Opinion

David Murhpy, 38, discovered Discord right after the messaging platform launched in 2015. The app was designed as an audio chat platform for online gamers, a remedy for their frustration with the patchwork of sparse communication tools available at the time. . Mr. Murphy, a tech writer based in San Jose, Calif., downloaded it out of curiosity, but didn’t open it for years. Today, he uses it daily.

“My group of friends lives mostly in the San Francisco Bay Area, but when the pandemic hit, some moved away,” says Murphy. This group of ten people created a free Discord “server” – an interface where they could organize their chat into “rooms” (like on Slack), call each other instantly, and watch video games while sharing their screen (like on Zoom) – to stay in touch.

Mindy Day, Discord’s chief community manager, said the app grew rapidly during the pandemic by allowing anyone to “connect with those they couldn’t see in person, and make even new encounters. She assures that the app now has more than 150 million active users per month.

Some servers, like Mr. Murphy’s, are only accessible by invitation. But plenty of servers are public and centered around a wider range of interests than you might think, given Discord’s original purpose. Of course, you will find servers on League of Legends and the Settlers of Catanbut also on knitting and K-Pop.

Discord users say its design – and lack of algorithm – makes it a place to connect naturally, instead of being obsessed with likes

Sure, Twitter is filled with K-Pop references, but Discord works differently than other social networks. Unlike platforms like Facebook or TikTok, Discord does not use an algorithm to serve content to its users. It’s more like a big group chat, only better, because if a discussion — say, a tense debate over whether a hot dog is a sandwich — escalates, you can easily offer to go to audio chat. Things often become more cordial when you can hear the person’s tone.

Like any other platform, Discord has its detractors. Parents might rightly be concerned about the lack of parental controls — stumbling upon a public server filled with hate speech and misinformation isn’t hard.

Skeptics might also get tired of spending their free time on an app that looks like Slack. But Discord users say its design — and lack of an algorithm — makes it a place to naturally connect and form a community around common interests, instead of being obsessed with likes.

One such community is Houseplants, where nearly 9,000 people post their leafy living rooms, swap tips for growing their plants, and inquire about upcoming sales. Most find the server by looking for advice on how to save their ailing vegetation, says Marcel Mangold, a 27-year-old moderator based in Heidelberg, Germany. But newbies quickly realize that it’s more like a cheerful cafe. The members discuss the flora, but also send each other photos of their animals. (Most Discord servers end up creating a channel just for this, it seems.)

Another example is the Philosophy Cafe, a group of over 3,000 people who regularly schedule voice calls to talk about Kant or Buddhism. Just over 6000 vinyl collectors hang out in the Vinyl Chat server. Automated content informs of sales and new releases, while members talk about music. A room is only used to post photos of its record collection for others to admire.

Ms. Day said there are around 19 million Discord servers covering almost any topic. Browse all of the public groups in the app’s “Discovery” tab, or the smaller, more curated list managed by third-party Disboard. If you can’t find one that appeals to you, you can always create your own.

Translated from the original English version by Lola Ovarlez.

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