Saturday, September 3, 2011

Does the world really want to know where you are?

Foursquare got my brother in trouble today. My mom had asked him to buy takeout food for dinner, and he had been out for more than an hour when she saw his Foursquare check-in minutes earlier at a location different (and really far) from where he was supposed to get the food.


Foursquare, Gowalla and Bizzy are just some of the social networking sites that are primarily location-based, but we're also seeing many of the other social networking sites dip their toes into this geo-tagging frenzy [e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, etc.]

While a number of my friends are comfortable with updating people about their whereabouts, quite a number  don't see the point and couldn't care less - some have even expressed [albeit privately] their annoyance with those kinds of updates from their friends. I say those updates aren't any less significant than those about what people are cooking/having for lunch or what album they're currently listening to. 

Last year, Time Magazine called Foursquare "the next generation of creepy social networking" and "just another tool tapping into a generation of narcissism."

Anyway, I started wondering about what the deal was with telling people about where you are and found online that they're primary marketing tools. Through these sites, it's easy to see which stores customers frequent, what they buy and when they buy it. On the other hand, users are given access to user-generated recommendations, reviews and tips about the venues they check into or plan to check into, as well as to check-in incentives likes freebies, discounts, virtual badges and whatnot. 


I guess if we go back to those primary purposes, and maybe if we think about how people can actually use them to connect with their friends [i.e. announcing their arrival at some venue is sort of a way to ask if any of them are in the area and if they'd like to meet up], it's pretty easy to understand why location-based social media has taken a firm hold of this generation. Some would say location is irrelevant for some social media [like where exactly in the world I'm making this post], and that check-ins to certain locations [like the MRT or their own homes] won't make any significant difference in the world, but who's drawing the line? 

If the people we're following are eager to tell the world where they are, what they're eating or what they just bought, and if we can't take that, we should find a way to block their posts or unfollow them altogether. This is a "generation of narcissism" we're in, and nitpicking is certainly futile.

As for my brother, he's certainly got to start thinking about filtering his posts if we wants to keep using Foursquare.


#11 - Somayyah Abdullah
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