“I was at Sundance in Park City and wanted to connect with sober people,” says 33-year-old former art dealer Beau Mann to describe his impetus for creating Sober Grid, the app for sober folks that has been downloaded 28,000 times and counting. After coming up with the idea, Boston-based Mann, who has been sober since the age of 24, poked around the app marketplace and didn’t see anything like it. “There were some sobriety calculators but no Facebook for sober people,” he says. And so he went about creating one, putting together an executive team, a board and getting a seed round of investors (the whole executive management team is made up of sober people in recovery).
In order to allow for some anonymity, you can create an account on Sober Grid through Facebook but don’t have to. “Facebook doesn’t allow you to use nicknames,” Mann says, “and we wanted people to have that option.” (He estimates that roughly 50% of their users go the Facebook route.)
Once you’re registered, you have access to user profiles which include (if people choose to use all the options) a photo, age, description, location, sober date, gender, orientation, relationship status, what they’re seeking (new friends, chat, buddy, activity partners, etc), whether or not they’re available to give someone a ride and whether or not they’re looking to meet up. You can start chats with whomever you want, favorite them or, if things go awry, block ‘em the way you can on all the other social media out there. Got a burning desire or need a ride from one of the people available to give one? Options for those are at the bottom of the screen. To keep it all Facebook-ian, there’s a Newsfeed where you can post—well, whatever you please (a glance through what’s there reveals memes, “Thank God I’m sober” posts as well as incredibly personal struggles with strangers offering support through comments).
I’ll admit that I didn’t go all out when I joined in order to check the grid out. I just uploaded a photo of me in my Recover Girl t-shirt (hey hey target audience), added my sober date, gender and orientation, answered “no” to being able to give anyone a ride (my level of service only going so far) and skipped the other questions. Then I went to town.
Well, by town I mean that I uploaded a photo of my cat with her head stuffed into a mug drinking and put it on my Newsfeed with the caption “She can’t stop drinking.” Didn’t get a lot of action there (I was the only one who liked it). Cool. My cat is amazing but the humor on that one only so so. So then I did what I might have done whether I was just trying the app out or not: messaged the three most attractive men I saw. My entry line: “Hey, just checking this app out. How do you like it?” Two out of three responded and a couple other men messaged me (since my fingers regularly hurt from typing and my attention span is non existent, that was where the communication ended). It should be noted, by the way, that Sober Grid is not meant to be a dating app, though Mann admits, “the interface could remind people of Tinder or Grinder.”
Of course my ride through Sober Grid wasn’t a perfect test, as it would surely be most useful when a craving or need to connect hits. If I was in a place where I was desperate to find another sober person or a meeting—or just have someone who understood hear me out—I imagine it could be a lifesaver. (Through the app, Mann was able to help a guy who was one day off heroin and he also connected with another member that he took to a sober beach party.)
While the app is free, users can go premium, which allows them to add additional photos, load more members onto their screens and go into stealth mode where they can check people out without them knowing. I imagine that last feature might be well utilized; after all, if there’s one thing alcoholics and addicts are familiar with, it’s how to be stealth.
Photo courtesy of Sober Grid all rights reserved