It may seem common to many of us, while to others it is totally nuts: sharing with the world where you are at the moment and what you are doing there. Questions such as „why the hell do you share this info?“ or „who should care about this?“ can be annoying. In many cases these harsh reactions are rooted in a lack of knowledge about social media. Still, there is some fundamental truth to it: what motivates people to do so? And what do we expect from sharing our whereabouts and actions?
Before digging for the answer one should be aware that this phenomenon has escaped the sphere of early innovators and tech addicts. Foursquare is currently seeing some 100,000 new user per week and Twitter is taking over Japan while I write this.
A recent article classified the motivation behind the use of location-based services as follows:
-serendipity and connection
-for the win (of status)
-as a personal history
One reason we share our whereabout can easily be compared to why we purchase certain brands. By buying a product, we want to project its image and the values associated with the product to ourselves. If you want to be perceived as sporty, drive a BMW 3-series, if you want to portray the rough country guy who works hard, a pickup truck might be the perfect choice (aside from the fact that you might need a 4×4 for taking it off-road and to pull heavy trailers).
Locations do work in a similar way. You can either be a fan of Ed Hardy (are there still some out there??) by wearing the clothes or alternatively show to the world that you are currently shopping in an Ed Hardy store. Or let it be a Hollister store, a foot locker, the Madison Square Garden or Starbucks. You aim to enrich your personality with the values of a brand or you use the brands or locations to show others how hip you are, how mobile (and thus affluent) you are or how good a taste you have (speaking of art exhibitions, restaurants, designer fashion,…)
In a negative way, you could speak of bragging. Although you need no spoken words… In fact you let the location or the brand speak. Who can complain against that?
The first point mentioned clearly sees serviceas such as Foursquare or Gowalla as a means of communication. Although in fact you do not communicate directly but simply provide to whoever cares the information of where you are at the moment or have been. It is quite weird to think about how communication has changed over centuries. At some point it was common to send written letters around the world. Then came telegraph and telephone. Then we started sending emails and text messages. Then we twittered and somehow managed to press it all into 140 characters. And with Foursquare you basically communicate one single thing: where you are right now.
I somehow disagree on that one. Has anybody ever pulled a Foursquare report telling him where he has been over the time of say the last 4 months? I must say, I do not use Foursquare yet, so I cannot tell. If this does make sense, prove me wrong.
We can argue a lot about whether or not applications such as Foursquare do make sense. But i would say, the answer is already there. If people do use it, get used to it and miss once they cannot use it, then such an application has proven it all. As long as we still have joy in creating more and more information – so be it. Critics already today argue that at some point in time, we will lose control and will no longer be able to process all the data we produce….