Sharing My Location With Strangers is a Bridge Too Far

A couple of months back, I wrote about Foursquare. It is, as far as I can tell, the location-based social network with the most legs. It enables you to share your physical location, in real time, with a network of friends you select.

I’m not sure why, but I’ve been diligently ‘checking in’ a couple of times a day. As an aside, besides generating a database of where I spend my time, I’ve realized zero value from Foursquare. That doesn’t mean I won’t see future value–I just haven’t experienced any yet.

When I check in, I declare my location to 77 Foursquare friends (looking at their avatars, that’s a big grid of geeky dudes). Just like Facebook or another social network, you can invite other users to become your friends so that you can share location data.

Here’s the thing. I recently checked my list of pending friend requests. I’d been ignoring it for a while, so the requests had added up. When I went through the list, there were over 60 strangers who wanted to share their location and receive notifications about mine on an ongoing basis.

I may have met a few of these people once before at an event–I have a horrible memory for names. Regardless, theirs are not names I immediately recognize.

If I was on some online-only network, I might have no qualms about ‘friending’ near or total strangers. But when we’re talking about meatspace, that crosses a particular line for me. I don’t actively worry about anybody doing something injurious to me, but I want to know who knows where I am.

This leads me to a question: why are strangers friending other strangers? Do they assume, unlike me, that the stakes are the same on Foursquare as they are, say, on Twitter? What do you think?


  1. And some geeky dudettes!

    I’m with you on the whole meatspace thing – I really only want people that I actually know to know where I am (I don’t much care who follows my tweets – what harm can come from strangers knowing that, yet again, I want a coffee, when they have no idea where I am?). Even still, I think twice before I check-in – the other night I went to the bank and was about to check in when I thought, “Do I really want everyone to know that tiny little me just went to an ATM to grab some cash, and now I’m on Skytrain?”

  2. You should switch to opt-in to broadcasting your checkins to your full friendslist, I leave default to Sharing Off unless I’m highlighting a semi-public event, or sharing something as a Tip or sending a TwitPic of a crazy-memorable dish. I use it to track new foodie places I’ve explored, and remember distinctive dishes/beverages.

  3. I know a few avid Foursquare users and they use Foursquare for real world interactions like many use Twitter for online interactions: finding people with similar interests that you wouldn’t run into any other way.

    They do stuff like find someone else on foursquare who is hanging out at the bar they are in and talk to them.

  4. I used to think blogging was creepy, and then I didn’t. I used to think facebook was creepy, and then I didn’t. I used to think texting was weird. Now I think its just rude most of the time. I still don’t get twitter, but if I tired it I probably would. I think you should friend people you might want to invite to an event you are at, like say your book launch. I think its a media for people who like to party and congregate. For them it’s just fine.

  5. Darren is it meatspace or meetspace? Meatspace is definately creepy, unless you are talking about how much room you have in the freezer before shopping at Loblaws. Meetspace is ok for those who like to congregate.

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