Feeling like a prison guard
About 10 years ago, Google Latitude offered a simple way of sharing your real-time location with friends on a map. This idea quickly became boring among early adopters but it lives on in closer-knit groups via apps like Apple’s Find My Friends
, and the family tracking app Life360
But do we actually want to be tracked like that? Wired published an interesting piece over the weekend about the terrible anxiety
caused by sharing your location with loved ones. It’s not just the anxiety of knowing you’re being tracked that’s a problem, it’s the anxiety caused by being able to track
I started pacing around my apartment in my underwear, certain that someone I care about has been assassinated in the dark. I call, I text, I refresh the Maps app. I am quite conscious of the fact that this behavior comes off as very stalker-y. Realistically, I know it’s just her phone that died, that the battery wore out right as she transitioned between different bars, that she’s fine and having fun and surrounded by good people who all look out for each other. But the way my brain is wired, I can’t help but worry, constantly. And being able to monitor someone’s whereabouts at all times hasn’t done my anxiety any favors.
Teenagers perhaps have the worst experience with tracking these days. Just at a time of life when stretching the boundaries of what their parents will allow has become hugely important to their development, along comes an app that means their parents can find out exactly where they are at all times. It’s peace of mind for parents, but you can’t blame the kids for feeling like prisoners
Personally, I only track one person’s real-time location — my dad’s. When I open Google Maps, I can see where he is and there is a certain amount of peace of mind about that. The time he appeared to be stuck in a field half a mile from his house after dark had me worried, but it turned out his phone was just playing up.
I certainly don’t check his location constantly, but it’s good to know I can. My dad can track my real-time location too (that’s only fair, right?) but other than that I hate the idea of tracking people close to me: whether it’s making them feel like prisoners, or getting unduly worried when they appear in an unusual place, little good can come from constant tracking.
And in a world where corporations and governments track us more than we know, do we really want our friends and family getting in on the act, too?