Geolocation applications allow you to share your location with other people and associate that location to restaurants, events, and other real-world venues. Using GPS chips embedded in your smartphone and latitude/longitude addresses, it is fairly easy for me to log into an app such as Foursquare, Loopt, or Google Latitude and (if your privacy settings allow me to) see who is proximate to my location. In this vein, if you share your location with the world, you are inviting the world to come over and introduce themselves.
This privacy intrusion is why I deleted my Foursquare account two years ago. I didn’t want the world to know where I was unless I explicitly told them.
But I returned to the Foursquare community last winter and now share my check-ins on a daily basis. While my “friends” on the app are people I’ve met in the flesh and live in New England, I am also aware if I check into a location I can see other people who checked in there — and they can see me.
I shared my location at Starbucks yesterday and observed a woman named Danielle checked in 11 minutes earlier. Her picture was attached to her name. I blew up her picture on my phone to see what she looked like, and I noticed her sitting with an iced coffee several feet away doing something on her iPad. I pondered walking up to her and saying, “Hi Danielle. I’m Ari. I saw you checked in on Foursquare as I just did.” But I didn’t. She was immersed on her tablet and didn’t want to bother her. But should I have said anything? Isn’t that how social networking works?
Asking my Facebook friends if they would randomly approach me if they didn’t know me and saw me checked into a location through a geolocational app, the varied responses are telling:
It is notable that responses 1 and 3 are from people who also tweet and are active across social networking channels.
But to response 2, how influential does introversion play a part when you and the other person share a common interest? If you’re both at Starbucks, that limits the stranger aspect than if you were both checked into Walmart.
I extend the question to you:
If you knew someone was in the same location as you because you both used a smartphone app and the app told you that fact, would you approach the stranger and say hi?