Serendipity today

Serendipity today                                           Serendipity hodie


Describe a fun, simple way to learn more about the people around you.  Striking up a conversation while in a line, at the elevator lobby, out at a club or party.  There are many possibilities for chance encounters and spontaneous conversation.  To be a social deb, friendly and charismatic has been a highly sought after characteristic, in the physical world.  And now there are apps.  Not so charming, demanding more technological gear and savvy, but definitely a way to more widely spread your social connectivity net.

Today it seems like everyone is striving to find more people who share their specific interests.  That’s why ambient social networking apps like Foursquare, Twitter, Glancee, OKCupid, Gowalla, and the recently launched Highlight, have made it to market.

Highlight, for example, is a mobile app that uses smart phone technology and an online identity, such as Facebook, to broadcast your location continuously and automatically using the phones GPS.  It will share your profile with individuals who are standing near you that also have Highlight installed.  Any bit of information you want to share such as photos, names, numbers, friends, schools etc., can be exchanged without your having to engage in physical contact.  It can reveal real-life connections you didn’t know you had.  You can also see a history of the times you have crossed another Highlight person’s path.  You can post blurbs on your profile to collect other feedback from the participating people around you.

There are some drawbacks though, like the battery power it takes to continuously broadcast your locating signal, or not always liking the people you have now shared your profile with, or places you might not want to use the app to reveal your online identity, to name a few.   It can also compromise your privacy if you are willing to let it rummage through too much personal information, because it is a program and knows nothing of sensitivity if you haven’t applied some personal discretion.

Is this the new face of communication?  It seems like an overly eager way to increase your remote, casual, social connections.  Your profile information will then become a tool for the app, and anyone or anything else out there that might use that data at their will.  And once you’ve connected to your new …oh say… 1,039 friends of the week, then you have already given up a certain level of your privacy.

There is the hope that these app’s will get smarter and more specific in their search ability, but will these apps also allow us to make connections to those with different interests, so that we might engage in personal discovery and step out of our ego centric profiles and learn something new and completely different?  Using a social networking app might certainly be a more efficient way to connect with a larger number of individuals…but have we reached a time where we need an app to make you friendlier to other people you see passing on the street or standing in line, at the expense of a truly serendipitous discovery?


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