Have social networkers turned into social creepers?

The direction that social networking has taken over the past several years has been monumental. I wasn’t into the whole Facebook craze in college – instead the extent of my social networking knowledge didn’t extend beyond AOL’s Instant Messenger and journaling about my day on Live Journal.

Only a mere five years later, here we are in 2010 where people can’t escape social networking if their life depended on it. With that said, I’m wondering just how many people can live their lives without social media once it’s introduced to them. (I say that because I do know people that live without it. Just take a few of my family members for instance: three of them have never owned a computer in their lives and don’t intend on purchasing one or start learning how to use one now, and the other just canceled her home Internet, claiming that she only needs the Internet at work.)

So for the sake of this post, I’m going to assume that most (if not all of my audience) is using social media – after all, you’re reading this blog right? And you’re probably wondering why you’re reading yet another post on social media.

I’m as much into social media as the next person. I’m on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, write for two of my organization’s blogs, keep my own personal blog, and have 15 blogs that I’m following lined up in my Google Reader. With all of this connection to strangers around the interwebs, one has to be careful to protect yourself.

Turning up the creep factor with Chat Roulette and Foursquare

Now a lot of this seems like common sense, but it’s worth repeating. If you don’t personally know and trust the person you are talking to, then don’t give out any personal information or agree to meet someone in person. A new craze, Chat Roulette has taken social media to the extreme. Chat Roulette pairs up random people via a video chat with the option to click a “next” button at anytime during the conversation. So now people can actually see the creepers people they’re talking to online! Is your skin crawling yet?

Not only is that creepy enough, Foursquare is rapidly gaining momentum. Foursquare allows users to “check-in” to a location via their mobile phone, allowing people that you are connected with on Foursquare to easily see where you are (which speaks volumes of where you are not, but more about that later). The idea is that when your friends check-in to a particular restaurant, store, etc., you can pick up the little nuggets of advice they have left behind. For instance, if I were to check-in at P.F. Changs, I could get a comment from a friend saying, “I highly recommend the lettuce wraps.” Players also receive points to unlock badges. Points can be received for trying a new place in your neighborhood, visiting a location multiple times, or bringing a friend along. These points unlock a multitude of badges. Become a regular at any one location and you may just become the “Mayor” of that bar, restaurant, etc. earning you freebies at that location.

I signed up for Foursquare to see what all the fuss was about, and even added some “friends” that I am following on Twitter, but the problem is, I don’t even know all of those people personally. So why would I want them to know exactly where I am?

Which leads me to http://pleaserobme.com/.

Nobody’s home

The purpose of http://pleaserobme.com/ is to highlight the dangers of location sharing. While the idea behind Foursquare and other location-aware sites are fun, they are also potentially dangerous. Checking in to locations around your city (or even when you’re away on a trip), just scream that you are not at home, leaving you vulnerable.

My advice if you’re going to participate in Foursquare is to only add people that you know – but that still doesn’t stop others from seeing your whereabouts if you share your check-ins on Twitter or other social networking sites.

For the record – I have never checked-in to a location and have since deleted the app.

Let’s hear it!

There’s a good chance a fair number of you have used Foursquare, and maybe even a few that have checked out Chat Roulette. I want to know your thoughts behind both. Have you used either? Do you plan to? If you do, what keeps you going back? Likes? Dislikes?

Leave your comment below, or find me on Twitter.

Bah Hummbuzz

Yet again I’ve been disappointed by a technology solution that was going to be the latest and greatest thing since the inception of the Internet. Yes, I’m talking about Google Buzz but I don’t blame Google for my disappointment. I blame the hype created by the tech industry. The continued approach to build it up and slam it down simply tires me.

The recipe for a flawed release is simple:

  • 2 Pounds of Rumors
  • Sprinkle in Leaks
  • Add some Expert  Guesses
  • Stir to build Hype
  • Bake in a Release
  • Check for Review
  • Burn and Destroy

In our industry nothing is quite as juicy as playing armchair innovator, except maybe claiming the lack of innovation. Wave, Buzz, iPad, Windows 7 you name it. We will build it up to be exceptional only to ensure everyone thinks it sucks. I’ll admit I follow the hype, I get excited, I build unreasonable expectations, and I’ll be the first to let you know when a solution fails to meet them.

What I’m realizing is it’s not the product failing, but it’s the unreasonable expectations that create my disappointment. Perhaps rather than listening to the hype I should wait patiently, and unwrap new technology like a child on Christmas. Of course to do this I’d have to tune out of the hype, and that’s nearly impossible today.

So to all those tech writers who are spoilers, I say bah hummbuzz!