Income inequality now has a social media platform, and it’s called Netropolitan. The self-fashioned “online country club for people with more money than time” (seriously, it says that on the homepage) launched yesterday, and for an annual fee of $3,000 dollars (and a one-time initiation fee of $6,000 dollars) you can rub virtual shoulders with the wealthy.
“I saw a need for an environment where you could talk about the finer things in life without backlash,” said Netropolitan founder James Touchi-Peters, a composer and former conductor in the Minnesota Philharmonic Orchestra. “It’s an environment where people could share similar likes and experiences.”
If that comes off as elitist, that’s because Netropolitan wants to be.
So what does $3,000 dollars a month buy you that you couldn’t find on any of the free social networks? For starters, Netropolitan is an ad-free, business-free platform. Businesses may not register on Netropolitan, but registered users can create groups to represent their businesses if they so choose. Netropolitan will not be indexed by any search engines, and moderators will be present 24/7 to police bad behavior, such as users using the platform to try and solicit new business. To further distance itself from the greater online community, Netropolitan is doing its best to make sure that nobody besides registered users will ever be able to see past the website’s login page. Members must agree not to screenshot images of the site and post them on the web at the risk of losing their account. Accounts may not be transferred to other users, and members are not allowed to divulge the identity of other people on the platform.
Essentially, it brings all the privilege and exclusivity of being rich to an online setting. The hefty membership fee “ensures that our membership remains exclusive, but also private,” said Touchi-Peters. It is available on all devices and users must be 21 years old to sign up. Touchi-Peters also said that the site has already been seeded with a select group of pre-qualified members.
Clientele aside, Netropolitan isn’t that much different from Facebook. It contains many of the features that users have come to expect from social media platforms, including status updates, groups, discussion rooms, instant messaging, photos and videos, and tagging and hashtags.
However, there is one thing that Netropolitan wants its users to understand, and this is listed on the FAQ page of the site: “Our Member Service Associates will not book you a charter jet, or find you tickets to a sold-out Broadway show. They exist solely to help members technically navigate and find their way around the social club.”
Thanks for clearing that up.
The idea of an exclusive social media platform for rich people also raises some interesting questions. The first of which is: how private can Netropolitan truly be? The platform strives to be as private as possible, but one of the bullets on the “Join” page of their site says: “We strive to make this service and your data private – but we cannot and will not guarantee such.” The internet has proven again and again that anything and everything can and will be leaked, so why should Netropolitan users feel that they are safe? There is also the issue of net-neutrality, and how a website charging users an exorbitant amount of money to access its services can fuel the ongoing debate between internet-providers and internet-based businesses. You also have to wonder if rich people are even going to sign up. Is Mr. Touchi-Peters correct in his assumption that the rich don’t want to muddle with the 99% online? Or does Netropolitan pray on the insecurities of the bourgeoisie, making them feel as if they need to join this “club” to feel important and hob-nob with the gentrified. Furthermore, what stops a business from falsely signing up under an individual’s name, for the sole purpose of gaining access to people with money?
This is something of a new territory for the internet, and these questions will have to be answered in due course. Mr. Touchi-Peters sees Netropolitan in a much simpler way: a brick and mortar country club without the brick and mortar.
“We view Netropolitan club in the same light as any country club out there,” said Touchi-Peters. “They have initiation fees and yearly dues for members. Netropolitan is an online country club, focused on connecting members around the world. We believe there is a need for a community like this, and we are filling the need.”
If Mr. Touchi-Peters has his way, then the next time you go yachting off the coast of St. Tropez, snap a bunch of photos. You finally have somewhere to post them.