Greg Studley, a drink-slinger at the Hotel Jerome who has observed the phenomenon firsthand for years, is attempting to undo it by turning social media’s introversion outward.
In October, he launched Soapbox, an app that allows users to post photos and captions to a bar’s TV screens. “It’s a crowd sourced slideshow on a publicly viewable screen in a bar in real time,” Studley says. Think of it as Facebook or a Twitter feed with a live audience.
The app’s users create profiles, which can be seen by anyone else in the bar who is on Soapbox. Spot a cute girl? Post your profile pic to the TV screen with a caption inviting her to buy you a drink. Want to embarrass your friend? Upload that shot of him with a mullet from the early ’90s. The pictures stay on the TV for five seconds; the caption then appears on top of it for five more.
Soapbox launched at the Square Grouper in October and is also in use at El Rincon, where staff took photos of patrons’ costumes on Halloween and had Soapboxers vote for the best. Studley says that as the night goes on, the Soapbox stream only improves: “With the intake of alcohol, the conversation gets weirder.”