Dispo Uses Nostalgia to Save Us From Ourselves

Tabarak Khan
6 min readFeb 28, 2021
Illustration by Jozef Mikulcik

In the Netflix documentary The Social Dilemma there is a fictional scene depicting a modern family trying to enjoy their dinner, where the mom decides each member of the family must place their phones inside a lockable cookie jar. The purpose is to be present in the moment, away from the distractions of social media. The photo-sharing app Dispo, which launched its beta in February, emulates a lockable cookie jar in the form of a digital disposable camera.

The invite-only beta maxed out its 10,000-person limit and drew immediate comparisons to Clubhouse, the audio-social network recently valued at $1 billion that debuted using a similar strategy last spring.

Dispo and Clubhouse are a new breed of apps that are bringing analog concepts into the digital world, while simulating the serendipity of the analog experience.

As The New York Times reported, soon after the beta was announced the app climbed the ranks in Apple’s App Store. Dispo-themed discussion rooms popped up on Clubhouse. YouTubers are sharing reviews, tips for scoring invites and growth hacks. Just as VSCO gave rise to the VSCO girl, Dispo has produced a stable of “Dispo boys.”

In Dispo, there are no options for user to choose filters or add captions. Users have to wait until the next day at 9AM for the pictures to ‘develop’. Founder David Dobrik was inspired through his experiences from parties where the hosts provided guests with disposable cameras and collected them in the morning. He wanted to recreate the experience of collectively revisiting the moments after the pictures were developed the next day. “This sounds so cheesy, but it really lets you live in the moment,” he said of disposables. “It doesn’t ruin the flow of a real moment you’re having….It doesn’t ruin the vibe in the room.”

The past couple of years have ushered a shift away from manufactured coolness, accentuated by the rising polarity between the preferences of Millennial and GenZ users. Taylor Lorenz observed this this trend early in 2019 as young influencers such as Emma Chamberlain, Jazzy Anne, and Joanna Ceddia were garnering popularity through a messier and more unfiltered vibe. “While Millennial influencers hauled DSLR cameras to the beach and mastered photo editing to get the perfect shot, the generation…

Tabarak Khan

I write about the psychological, emotional, and cultural factors that affect our decisions. Engineer | Brand Strategist | Curious