When we met, it felt like you really cared about me and my feelings. You used to help me stay better connected to people. Now you only connect me to places in a mindless game.
What was once an interesting and useful relationship has become an irrelevant distraction. I’m taking you off my iPhone’s shortcuts dock for now, but I hope this note might help you change in ways that make you relevant in my life again. I’m going to take a break from our friendship for a while rather than unfriending other people…
This week marks a year and a half since your big splash at SxSW in March 2009. That’s when I started loving you. Back then, we had a few dozen friends in common in San Francisco. I loved getting alerts as they checked in. Seeing where my friends were, I dropped in to bars, parties, and tech events. We made a great team.
I deepened connections to people I knew and felt a stronger sense of community. I visited places and met people I never would have otherwise. For months, I was the most socially active I’d ever been in my life. For a while, you fueled that. I was a better person because of you. Thanks.
But we seem to have grown apart…
As you grew, hundreds of people requested to be my FourSquare friends. Even after rejecting folks I’d never met, I still had more than 150. That’s a fraction of the people I’m connected to on Facebook, Twitter or email, but this is simply more people than I can ge
t location alerts from. I can’t keep track of it all, and I can’t act on it. You no longer help me sort the interesting from the mundane. Excepting your downtime this week, the database in my ears isn’t capable of handling nearly the volume that yours is.
At first I disabled alerts for many people, but I found I had to disable them altogether. Part of this isn’t your fault — the alert system on the iPhone is primitive, and alerts from apps trounce each other (and incoming SMS messages). I found I was losing both. Hopefully that’s something Apple improves soon.
The bottom line is, you don’t help me meet up with my other friends anymore.
And frankly, you seem so focused on work that you seem to have forgotten people. If I need a business directory, I’ve got Yelp and plenty of other options that do a better job right now. If that’s what you want to be, you’ve got a long road ahead of you. I fell in love with you because you were all about the people in the places, not the businesses themselves.
I realized I just wasn’t getting anything from our relationship anymore. I kept putting in checkins and tips, but what’s the value for me? Coupons? Really, you think love can be bought? Badges? Honey, if you think I’m a boyscout, you really don’t understand me at all. Mayorships? They’re not worth the hassle, it’s just more work without a meaninful payoff. (Well, OK, it does tickle me a little to be the mayor of a few of my favorite places, even though no one notices anymore.) You used to mean something to me, but I see you’ve grown shallow.
I thought maybe I could help you myself. So I started to unfriend people on Foursquare. Then I realized that I’d lose context for people who are loose connections, so their tips wouldn’t pop up. And I wouldn’t be able to spot larger scale trends.
I don’t need to unfriend other people. What I need is for you to acknowledge my feelings.
While I love all people, I really do feel closer to some more than others. I’d love to know what my closest friends and family are doing wherever they are in the world (my feelings for them are enough to create relevance), while others only matter to me if they are checking in to someplace of professional interest rather than their social haunts (or vice-versa). Some people I might only care if they are very near to where I am now. Often I’d like to follow someone closely for a while as I get to know them, but later let drift into my pool of broader friends or acquaintances (once I’ve decided how compatible we are, or how interesting they are).
You need to respect the fact that some of our friends are closer than others, and mean different things to us.
I still care about you, and I’d like to see you change. My friend Facebook has the same problem, and started trying to manage it this week with a new groups feature. I’m not sure how well that’s going to work out. Twitter has its own issues. But they’ve both changed so much in the last year. They show me they’re really trying, that they really care about me.
I hope someday I’ll again feel about you the way I still do about Facebook and Twitter, but for right now, I just need a little break.