Today, recovering from a bitter cold and enjoying a tea at Darwin’s, I happened across this interesting article by Jennifer Leggio on ZDNet that discusses FourSquare, a new social networking site. I’ve yet to try it, being more than busy enough with Twitter and Facebook, but if you’re on Twitter at all, you’ve probably noticed that a couple of your friends are posting things like “@name just became the mayor of somesuch location.” That’s foursquare in a nutshell. You go to a place, “check in” on foursquare, and if you go there often enough, you become mayor. There’s also apparently points and badges and things, which ups the potential for addiction.
I certainly see how this service could be useful for business, especially retail and restaurant businesses that might be able to track who’s hanging out at their establishments and maybe run special promotions for users, but the article raises some excellent points about the potential pitfalls; aside from the obvious potential issues raised by, essentially, telling someone where you are every moment of the day (do your colleagues really need to know that you’re having tea and blogging at your favorite coffeeshop instead of working diligently on their urgent jobs? Er, right.) there’s the fundamental issue of rudeness – and I’m realizing that this is becoming an issue not just with foursquare, but with all social media.
Let’s think about this for a second. How much time have you spent “just checking in” on Facebook or twitter instead of spending time with your loved ones? How many times have you been in the middle of a conversation with someone when suddenly you felt compelled to tweet something they said, or your iDroidBerry alerted you to an “urgent” e-mail (which, too often, is some bit of nonsense from a newsletter you’re on rather than something that actually needed paying attention to?). Ironically, the more we surround ourselves with technology to make our lives easier, the harder it becomes to actually live our lives in the moment. We’re constantly chasing after the next bit of information, the next “opportunity” we can’t afford to miss.
Social media presents some great opportunities, to be sure. Over the years, I’ve made friends and clients through my various networks who I would never have met otherwise, and who have proven to be an incredible support network as I’ve grown my studio. But at a certain point, it’s time to put down the laptop and the smartphone, and remember that there’s also a world outside the office.