On any given day, I know exactly where about half my friends have eaten, shopped, hung out, and even what videos or TV shows they’ve watched — no matter where they live in the world.
No, I don’t have special psychic abilities or even a crystal ball; otherwise, I’d probably be spending my multiple lottery and sports betting winnings in Vegas right now, but rather I know people who like to take advantage of their smartphone’s location services and features.
Most smartphones today are GPS (Global Positioning System)-enabled, meaning satellites can track their exact location anytime and mostly anywhere.
Although personally I find that all kinds of creepy, many of my friends like to use “geosocial” features of things like Facebook and Foursquare to “check-in” at restaurants and hotels, spas, movies or wherever they happen to be hanging out.
I guess it makes stalking that much easier.
But to be honest, I don’t really want to know that my buddy in Montreal just stopped in at Hurley’s Irish Pub for a pint of delicious Guinness, mostly because being on the West Coast, I can’t join him at my once-favourite watering hole — and it feels like he’s rubbing that fact in when checking in from there.
However, more and more people are turning on to — or at least turning on — their location-based smartphone features. According to a recent study I read about on CNN’s website, “three-quarters of U.S. adults who own smartphones use those devices to get some kind of real-time location-based information.”
Most are using those features to get maps and driving instructions, though — rendering those car GPS devices redundant, as you can get the same step-by-step navigation and car position tracking using things like Google Maps on your iPhone.
But others are starting to use location-based features for augmented reality apps (applications) that give information on local shops, points of interest and amenities just by waggling your phone around with the camera enabled. Other apps chart the stars based on your position and teach you about astronomy, or tag your photos with information on time and place for posting on Pinterest or Instagram.
It must totally suck to be a surly teenager today answering “Out!” to the timeworn parental query, “Where are you going?” — only to have your phone tattle that you’re at the mall, or that party you were forbidden to attend.
It totally blows the antisocial mystique.
But the technology has even gotten into our shoes, hooking Nike runners up with location-based apps so you can tell your friends that you just ran 15K… and presumably they should avoid you for the next half hour until you’ve showered.
I guess it’s all an extension of the online trend of over-sharing the minutia of one’s life through Twitter and the like. Even Netflix allows you to share through Facebook, so whenever you catch a movie online, your friends get notified of your choice.
I do love the Internet and all this inter-connectivity, because it does help maintain the connections I have with friends and family who live far away. But I opt to turn off the location services on my phone (under general settings, usually) until I need to use Google Maps for directions or something. I’d still rather keep some of my goings-on for small talk during phone or Skype conversations — after all, I don’t lead that exciting a life.
But these types of location-based apps and services haven’t even begun to reach their full potential, so whether you like to check in or not, you should at least check it out.