Foursquare: The Stalker’s Delight

Growing up in Southeastern United States, it may not (or it may) be a surprise to hear one of the most often vocalized concerns from neighbors, friends, and what not was the government intruding on its citizens’ privacy. This concern, of course, was inflamed with the terrorist scare and the passing of the Patriot Act, and has since caused near hysteria in many alarmed civilians.

But let’s not go there. The issue I wish to address today is one of severe irony in light of the aforementioned worries. Despite Americans’ (and probably citizens living in other developed countries) outrage at the government’s intrusion on their rights, they continue to utilize tools that render the government’s job of tracking them laughably easy, social media and cell phones being two of the best examples. Yet there is one example that trumps them all.

Foursquare.

For the uninitiated, Foursquare is an app available on Android and iOS that enables users to quickly find the best places around town, be it restaurants, stores for shopping, or virtually anything else. It is a handy tool to make the user’s life easier. Oh, and it gathers information on the best spots to visit by having its users check in to locations when they arrive.

So let’s examine this. Man complains his privacy is being invaded, saying the government has no business knowing where he is and what he is doing all day. Man keeps his cell phone on him, a device with GPS tracking that, let’s face it, can be used by the government to pinpoint your location. As if that’s not bad enough, man goes to the bar and, as he sits down to order his favorite brew, pulls out that phone, opens up the Foursquare app, and broadcasts to the social media world, “Hey, this is where I’m at! Come stalk me please!”

Now, I’m not criticizing. If you don’t care that people know when you’re home, have at it. You can even give your domicile a clever title for your friends’ amusement. (My brother-in-law dubbed his domicile “The Bat Cave.”) And it’s all in good fun, right? I suppose, like people who do you Foursquare, I am a hypocrite, as well, since I use social media and have a cell phone on my person at all times.

Still, there’s something unsettling to me about alerting all my friends each time I step foot in my home or work. For my part, I’ll stick with occasional social media posts and use the Facebook check-in on the rarest of circumstances, like going to a really awesome concert. If you choose otherwise, well, we live in a (sort of) free country. And that means you can get a restraining order when you start attracting stalkers.

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Social Media Activism: An Epidemic

The world is moving. Communication is stronger than ever, with smartphones, social media, and the Internet. It’s a wonderful thing, to be sure, but as always, with the good comes the bad. Many would say wasting time on the Internet surfing Youtube for funny trending videos and clicking through countless hysterical memes are a waste of time and technology. After all, we should use technology for the greater good of mankind, right?

These are the same people whose Facebook timelines are cluttered with posts supporting every little environmental, political, and animal rights cause (to name a few) they come across.

These are the people who I refuse to allow to pollute my newsfeed.

Now, before you call me a bitter sociopath—even if I am one—I’m not saying I’m against people supporting good causes. I love seeing my friends dedicating time and (virtual) space to the things they are passionate about. I just also know some of my friends well enough to look at something they’ve posted and think, “Who are you trying to kid?”

Anyone else already sick of seeing this as everyone’s profile picture?

The foremost problem, in my mind, of supporting too many causes on social media is the lack of doing anything else about it. So, you want better treatment for animals on farms? Let’s just post this informative video up showing the horrific conditions farm animals are subjected to. After that: McDonald’s!

If you feel strongly enough about something to share it with everyone you know (and probably hundreds you’ve never met), make sure you’re not stopping at useless Facebook posts. Remember Kony 2012? How many people posted about it? How many did anything beyond infecting Facebook like a plague with impotent posts? For probably 99% of those, the answer is, “Nothing,” and the entire campaign was dead as quick as it started.

One thing we can all agree on? This was the most ineffective Internet campaign ever…even if it was well-intentioned.

Another problem is that posting for every little cause results in the most ridiculous posts ever. The other day one of my friends on Facebook shared a post of a picture that said something along the lines of, “I’m against child abuse. Repost if you are.” Dude, EVERYONE’S against child abuse! That’s like saying, “Share if you live on planet Earth.” What’s the point? It’s just pointless noise on the Internet; it’s not comical, informative, or unique, and it makes absolutely no difference to anything in the world. Period.

So that I don’t end this alienating the masses with my cynicism, I will say that if there’s a cause you are passionate about, post all you want—just don’t stop there. Donate money or time, and if you have neither, at least encourage others to do what they can, and maybe pray (if you do that; if not, send out happy thoughts?). And for goodness sake, realize you don’t have time to support every little cause out there. Devote your energy toward a handful of causes you can give a lot for rather than innocuous posts about every little cause you come across. Except PETA. Never, ever support PETA.