Privacy-minded people don’t have to give up social networking. Plenty of options exist for friends, families, and even couples who want to communicate privately. If you feel that Facebook and Twitter are too public, you may want to take a look at private social networks. The following social networks are designed for close-knit groups who really want to connect with each other–not social butterflies who want to broadcast their lives across the Internet.

* Couple: A Formerly known as Pair, Couple is the ultimate private social network–a smartphone-based network designed expressly for couples. In fact, you can only have one friend on Couple: your significant other. Couple features a timeline that’s a bit like a souped-up text message exchange–you and your partner can add photos, reminders, important dates, drawings, and videos, along with regular text messages.

* Family Wall: If you’re looking for a slightly larger social network, FamilyWall helps you keep track of your entire family. At this private, Facebook-like social network for families, you can add dates and events, photos, videos, contacts, messages, and even Foursquare-style check-ins. You can also add “Family landmarks” such as schools, doctors, and fitness centers.

* 23snaps: Instead of posting photos of your children on Facebook or Instagram, try posting them to 23snaps, a smartphone-based social network that lets you create a unique, private online photostream. 23snaps lets you add photos, videos, and status updates to a special photostream of your child (you can add a stream for each child) and then share those photos with your friends and family. Another option is to co-manage a 23snaps account with your partner, so you can both add photos of your kids.

* Path: Perhaps the best-known private social network is Path. This smartphone-based social network limits your friends list to 150–the maximum number of friends a human being can realistically keep track of, according to studies. By virtue of being small, Path is one of the more private social networks you can join. But you’ll have to choose your friends wisely. Path may not also be as private as it once was. Users this week complained that a 2-month-old feature of the Path app that lets you invite contacts to join the network is actually spamming their address books with mass texts. Path says the texts are the result of user error.

* Nextdoor: If you want to restrict your social network communication to people you know in real life, the neighborhood social network Nextdoor might be right for you. Nextdoor requires all members to verify their address (the service sends you a physical postcard with a code on it) before allowing them to join their neighborhood’s group. As a result of this structure, the only people you can talk to on Nextdoor are those who live within shouting distance of your house.

Finally – there is the DIY approach. You can set up a shared folder with your family, and perhaps another with friends using one of the Cloud services like Dropbox, Skydrive, or the new peer-to-peer Bittorrent sync (http://labs.bittorrent.com/experiments/sync.html). Anything you put there will be synced with only those you care about.

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