Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Of Ankle Bracelets and other wonders... The technological generation gap widens. Again.

GPS TrackingI've never been a fan of ankle bracelets. Except maybe for convicted felons on home release. But that's the effective use (in my humble opinion) of the new location-based tracking software for your cell phone.

If you've ever irretrievably lost your family in a big crowd, then maybe this software is for you. But most of us reunite sooner or later, and we would find this software superfluous, I think.

Maybe I'm just being a technophobe. Or maybe I'm acting my age.

Pew Internet & American Life Project statistics show that only 1-4% of Americans going online use location-based services like Foursquare and Gowalla. Not surprisingly that small percentage is younger, hipper and Hispanic. You know 'em. They are the generational trend setters.

Girls at the MallWatch a flock of teenage girls descend upon a mall. They may scatter to the four winds, but they keep track of each other to such a degree that they all converge on the food court simultaneously. They used to do it the old fashioned way: by calling each other to confirm arrival time. Now they don't even have to do that.

Looking to capitalize on this up-and-coming group of super consumers, Starbucks, Arby's and The Gap are experimenting with ads, special offers and contests on these "geosocial" sites. When one of their user "friends" gets within range, zap 'em with an offer they can't refuse.

Insidious. Clever. And marvelously successful.

Except perhaps for the Big Brother aspect of it all.

I'm of the generation that likes its privacy; apparently the born-with-a-cell phone-in-their-hands crowd doesn't feel the same way. We don't post drunken pictures of ourselves on our Facebook pages; they do. For us it would be humiliating; for them it's a reminder of a great bash with good friends. It's a generational divide as great as the Grand Canyon.

Greta GarboBut I fear I am fighting a losing battle here. Pew reports that now 24% of Americans tweet. Of that tweeting 24%, 10% use a location-sharing or "geosocial" service. Only 6% of Facebookers utilize this software, but the numbers are growing.

In the old days, (and yes, I mean just last year) you could get away and be alone. You could think... pray... meditate... drive aimlessly for hours... or eat bonbons until you got sick. But you'd do it by yourself. Today, you take your friends with you wherever you go.

As Greta Garbo famously said "I vant to be alone." I couldn't agree more.

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