I went to work early to get some work done, then immediately got invited to the coffee break that everyone on my shift takes on Monday mornings. This is an hour of chatting and sitting around waiting for the sandwiches and coffee to arrive where a lot of peer office socializing occurs. It’s an office social obligation that I don’t really mind, as long as I think I can get my work done in the time remaining afterwards. Most of the conversation is just talking about people’s weekends, talking about graduate school papers, or talking about television or whatever else is going on in the office. There was some debate about a woman that entered the coffee shop, as some people were commenting on her someone brought up the social app 1km, and noted she might be using the social networking service.
I hadn’t been introduced to 1km before people mentioned it over coffee. One of my coworkers had it installed on his phone and said it was a great service for meeting women. He explained that it was a geo-aware service that alerted him when someone was nearby also using the service, and he could see if they were compatible matches by looking at their profiles. It could tell you if someone was in the room with you, or walking away down the street. All you need to do is turn on the application, share your location, and everyone nearby that is using the application is highlighted. You can specify for gender or interests, see their pictures, or anything else about the person that they’ve shared. You can see if people are looking for a relationship, what age ranges they are interested in, or what they like. That means you instantly have a way of finding a source of conversation before you even meet them. The coworker said that he knew someone that met a person and took them home for the night by using the application, which is why he thought it was worthwhile.
That struck me as funny, as there was a very similar “Gaydar” device that did nearly the same thing over a decade ago. I mentioned the Stephen Colbert “Gaydar” inventor interview on The Daily Show, which no one knew about. That’s a decade old interview on a comedy show. I didn’t expect anyone to remember it, but I remember the interview as being particularly gut-wrenching to watch which was why I mentioned it.I was just pointing out that geo-aware hookup apps have been around for a long time.
I then remembered a more recent application. “It’s like Grindr, but straight people use it too?”
“What’s with you and all the gay apps? Do you have something to share with who you try to hook up with?”
UGH. I can’t stand overtly homophobic coworkers. I can’t believe people didn’t outgrow that in high school. I mean, really? Are you that insecure because you use a social hookup application? It has nothing to do with the apps being used by gay people. It was a huge social network dating app based on hooking up with people in your area from 2009. It’s exactly the same idea, but it’s been used in another community with a different preference. Besides, who knows what the hell Blendr is? Damn it, I happen to know the precedent for a social media application. Perhaps it’s because I’ve been living on the Internet for the last 15 years, not because it’s about a gay thing.
Anyway, someone at the table was curious and installed the application to see if it worked. I mentioned that I disliked geo-aware social applications because I found them invasive and creepy. No one else thought there was any problem to uploading lots of personal information about themselves on social media websites. All of the following phrases were said by someone at the table when I discussed my objections: “Oh, I’m always responsible with what I put online. No one can use that profile to identify things about me. Facebook isn’t really a problem. No one cares what I do online. I have nothing to hide. It’s never a problem to post something about my location or activities. What, do you have something to hide? What are you doing that makes you worried about privacy? Why don’t you like sharing information? Why do you care about privacy? Why are you so paranoid?”
Why hello, Internet generational gap. All of these people had also suffered identity fraud at one time or another.
I think I know a little about sharing things online. I just don’t like using the argument from authority, but I think having a blog for 11+ years allows me some knowledge on the subject. If you want to go ahead and share everything about yourself on Facebook, go ahead. I just don’t think that’s a good idea, and if you can’t imagine a scenario where sharing information could bite you in the ass, you must be sharing such trivial shit about your life that it might not ever really matter. It’s just another difference of opinion, but I think privacy is a virtue that once lost is almost impossible to regain, and I haven’t found many things worth losing any of my privacy over. I’d rather hold on to the few things I do that are private then spend my time advertising my location to the world all the time. Sometimes not sharing is a virtue too.
Anyway, the second coworker to install the app tried it out, and found that there were lots of people that were single, desperate people, clearly lying about their appearance, looking to find someone of a particular type. Women stating that they were looking for sugar daddies, people looking to start affairs, and all types of people that seemed somewhat sketchy. There were prostitutes that had discovered the service as a way of advertising their services, as you could see pictures and find their location without ever needing to go to a seedy location first. Cut out the middle-pimp, as it were. It was never stated, “Hey, this is a working girl,” but their profiles left very little to the imagination, and the app seemed to facilitate that sort of encounter perfectly. Sketchy to say the least. Perhaps that is how someone met someone using this app to take home. The person they met was on the clock, so to speak.
The most disturbing thing was that it only took someone 15 minutes from installing the application until they were stalking the nearest person they found online. They were looking at a stranger’s Facebook picture profile, discerning if they had a boyfriend in a serious relationship and trying to figure out exactly where they were relative to where we were at the time. It takes someone 15 minutes to turn into a total stalking creep. When we went into the student building, the entire application was filled with lonely single guys in different classrooms looking for ladies. We couldn’t recognize any of our students, but wouldn’t it be creepy to know that someone in your class was using the service? It took a relatively normal person 15 minutes to turn into a creep. What would happen when an actually weirdo got hold of this information? Still comfortable about sharing everything now?
I also found it extremely distasteful that you could sign up with someone else’s name, then use the service as a completely socially unacceptable stalker enabler. Imagine a revenge scenario? Sign up using someone else’s name, then solicit explicit contact with someone else’s name under false pretenses, then watch the fallout, or potentially blackmail the people involved. Online impersonation is one thing, but this is a service about meeting people in “meatspace” where things can really go wrong. What’s to stop you from ruining someone else’s reputation and or social standing using this application? I’m sure that’s against the terms of service, but once you ruin someone’s life, does it really matter? Getting doxxed sucks, but imagine having someone even worse happen to you in person every day for the rest of your life?
I’m just a cranky old man. Young people, blinded by the opportunity of a potential sexual encounter are willing to basically do anything without regard for their personal welfare. It’s the same as it’s always been, online or offline, except memories fade and people forget things offline, while online everything lives on forever. I think the stakes are a hell of a lot higher when posting content online. There are consequences for reckless online behavior, and I can’t believe people actually argue that point.
Anyway, I will not be installing the 1km application, as it does nothing I am interested in, but in younger circles it is popular. It’s a little too creepy for me. If you can manage the minimal signup procedures in Korean, you’ll be amazed at the number of people using it in any urban area.