Community-Building Website Aims to Fight Tech Isolation

Deanna Charles, the woman behind Park Cities Opoly, is preparing to launch what she hopes will be the cure to a social phenomenon called the Fear of Missing Out (FOMO). FOMO can be a real anxiety on some college campuses, Charles said, where students hear about fun things happening after the fact.

“I always hated learning about fun events after they happened,” Charles said. “Mambo will not only help people avoid that, but [also bring] everything to them in one place and within their specific hobbies or interests.”, which launches in September, is an online community platform designed to enhance face-to-face relationships. Like the dance it is named after, the website involves both leaders (creators) and followers (participants).

“Both parties work in sync to produce coordinated movements that flow beautifully together,” Charles said.
Chautauqua, New York, a hustle and bustle community-centered city with constant activities, was Charles’ model; she wanted to create a similar atmosphere in the Park Cities.

She was also inspired by Friends of the Lost Boys, a nonprofit she cofounded dedicated to helping men displaced by war in Africa.

“The Lost Boys had to stick together as children in Africa in order to survive genocide, as well as harsh conditions in the Kakuma refugee camp,” Charles said. “They share incredible bonds with one another and a unique sense of belonging. Despite having little money, they are able to find happiness through their reliance on one another.”

The Lost Boys community convinced her that bringing people together can strengthen overall community health and happiness.

Charles created Mambo to help facilitate face-to-face interactions through local activities. The site informs members of different communities of local events within their chosen areas of interest.

In Charles’ words, Mambo has the potential to connect any closed network community to its surrounding communities. For example, Park Cities residents can step outside their social bubble and find events posted by local entities throughout Dallas.

Mambo is not a social networking site, but a social calendar, Charles said. She described it as a “Social Engagement Platform,” designed to coordinate what’s happening in a community via admins and participants. Participants propose activities for the platform using the thumbtack on the homepage. Admins can then decide whether to approve the events.

“It’s kind of like the Meetups app in that it allows people to find one another [based on] similar interests and to sign up, save, and share,” she said. “However, it also allows filtering like Yelp and following like Pinterest. It’s basically a conglomeration of features seen across many platforms, but combined to enhance the overall user experience.”

The website is primarily geared towrads colleges and retirement communities. Charles’ daughter is a senior at SMU, and her son recently graduated from Northwestern University. Charles and her partner also have parents in retirement communities.

“We both can see firsthand how Mambo would bring college students together and those in their later years together,” she said. “It can be hard on both ends of the spectrum, and we visualize the quality of life for both groups getting better.”

The site is not limited to the Park Cities, but can be accessed by any closed network community in the United States. To post an event, groups must purchase a Mambo account. After an initial setup fee that includes training and support, pricing will be tiered based on the group’s size; so if an organization buys an account, its individual members do not have to.

Charles is concerned about younger generations’ psychological absence in the world around them due to tech isolation.

“Nobody is hanging out,” she said. “I’m like, what would work in the digital era to help people be participants and active in their surroundings, and ultimately live? Our kids don’t know who they are when they get to college because they never try things.”

According to a 2015 NY Times study titled “A Few of Their Favorite Things,” almost every top choice by undergrad students involved an electronic device. The number one choice was an Apple iPhone. The next five were coffee, texting, Facebook, Apple iPad, and Instagram.

“This study, though not surprising, was somewhat disturbing,” Charles said. “The recent obsession with Pokémon Go is another example of how the younger generation values their phones.”

By using phones to promote activities and make community activities more accessible, Mambo aims to promote the value of the real world, she said. She believes that Mambo will help college kids gain experiences and help older folks experience more again.

“Tech isolation has many negative consequences, which I’m hoping [Mambo] helps rid our youth of,” she said.

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