Checked In?

300px-Geosocial-universal-infographicGeosocial networking is defined by Buffalo State professor Daniel Rera as “a type of social networking in which geographic services and capabilities such as geocoding and geotagging are used to enable additional social dynamics.”

These are tools that allow one to use a smart phone or app to connect to friends and/or places.

Foursquare claims that “more than 30 million people make the most of where they are” by using this application. My question is why?Foursquare offers the opportunity for users to “share” with their online network where they are at the moment, whether it be at a five star restaurant or at Sheas’s Performing Arts for a performance of Jersey Boys. Are folks just bragging? Will all this monotonous sharing calm down once people become bored with the new tool?

Additionally, Foursquare offers badges for those who check-in to specific locations. Those who do so enough times may earn a “mayor” designation. Sounds a little like kindergarten when five year olds are encouraged to earn a gold star for good behavior.

Perhaps, my lack of understanding of these new geosocial tools is a result of the generational divide. Adults who are more mature may not be as tuned in to the social networking latest trends. But are we so self-absorbed that we have to share every moment? A friend recently posted on their Facebook page that they were experiencing “gas” with a “P.U.” noted after. Do I (and all her friends) really need to know that?

So what do the experts have to say about geosocial networking? USA Today writer Byron Acohido in September 2011 reported on the convention of Information Systems Audit and Control Association or ISACA. These experts say that “located-based services are posing new threats to business and consumers.” The article reports that “when a user’s gender, race, occupation and financial history are combined with geo-location tags, the information can be used by criminals to identify an individual’s present or future location. This raises the possibility of threats that range from burglary to stalking to kidnapping.”

Another source, WikiHow says, “geotagging can be a wonderful feature….however there is a risk of social surveillance by GPS.” The article adds “avoiding the risks of geotagging is one more important thing to keep in mind in this day and age of diminishing privacy” and the site offered important suggestions on ways to accomplish that end.

Despite the risks, geosocial networking is hugely popular. The Pew Internet organization reports the following in a 2012 survey of smartphone users:

  • 74% of smartphone users get real-time location-based information on their phone which is up from 55% in May 2011.
  • Younger adults are more likely than older adults to use both location-based information and geosocial “check-in” services.
  • Lower-income households are less like to use located-based information services but more likely to use geosocial services such as Foursquare.
  • One in five teens with smartphones (18%) use a geosocial service.

It appears the future of geosocial networking is now.

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