(I posted this as a reply elsewhere, but I feel it was lost there, so slightly rewritten, here it starts a new thread)
One way to socially connect on Duolingo might be to imbed member's icons into lessons (with their permission of course!). This gives information about the person and in the language being studied. Translate a sentence, learn something about someone. Perhaps best when the person you learn about is close to your own skill level.
Example: Say, you're studying Italian, you see my icon and this sentence: Montalbano vive in montagna.
You learn I live in the mountains.
Another time you come across someone else's icon and you read:
Ama il giardinaggio.
He likes gardening.
Duolingo doesn't need to do much more than that. Just an ice breaker.
For beginners just keep it simple, in the present tense, nothing compound.
We give permission for Duolingo to use our sentences, and you allow us to opt out at any time.
A labor saving way to start it, would be to a little quiz Duolingo asks us. Answer this question: "I like _" and lots and lots of images to choose from, activities, etc., and when we pick one it creates a sentence to show with our icon.