According to a study by Flurry Analytics, usage of messaging and social media apps grew by 203%, the largest year-to-year increase among the categories of apps analyzed in the study. With more people staying connected, social media apps are influencing our relationships and daily routines.
Here’s a look at how social media apps are changing people’s lives.
Tracking Your Location
Before considering the apps that track where you’ve been and where you are, keep in mind some smartphones themselves record your whereabouts. Users of Apple devices have known since 2011 that their iPhones and iPads log and store their location (latitude and longitude) along with a timestamp. Privacy experts have voiced concerns about the data being stored locally on the phone, making it accessible to anyone who picks up your device.
On top of having Apple smartphones tracking users’ locations, many social media apps make it easy to keep tabs on where a person is or has been. Depending on your settings, your friends can use the Facebook app to “check in” with at a specific place and time.
The popular Foursquare app lets users themselves disclose their location to others, sometimes in exchange for discounts or other benefits at restaurants. Shopkick is a social shopping app that lets users collect points for repeated trips to certain retailers and earn discounts in return.
The Implications of Sharing Your Whereabouts
There are benefits and drawbacks to these apps with location features. For parents, they give peace of mind because they can keep tabs on the locations of their teenagers or even their adult children who may live faraway. For others, social media apps that reveal your location may make life a bit more complicated. For example, there could be consequences when Facebook shows a friend checked in with you at a restaurant for lunch when you were supposed to be home sick from work.
In terms of where these apps are headed in the future, one of the emerging trends is anonymous social apps. Yik Yak became available in late 2013, giving users the chance to send a message, known as a “yak,” to the 500 other users who are in closest proximity to them. This social app is like a megaphone on steroids. It’s already caused headaches for law enforcement officials in Alabama because a couple of teens used it to send out a threatening message.
Organizing Your Life
Besides sharing your location, social media apps help users organize and prioritize their tasks. For example, Pinterest makes it easy to store favorite recipes on your smartphone for quick reference when grocery shopping or preparing meals. It’s also an endless source of new ideas for meal preparation and organizing your home. Along the same lines, Buy Me a Pie lets you create shared grocery lists so roommates or spouses can add to and delete from the same list.
MyFitnessPal app is a social tool that organizes your weight loss tactics. Track your weight, plan meals, and schedule workouts with this app. It also includes access to discussion forums where users connect with others who are on a weight loss journey.
The Facebook app lets you create events, a time-saving way to organize fundraisers and parties. It also gives users the opportunity to organize people into groups so people with a common interest can quickly share information.
There are several apps that have features to connect people in ways that go beyond Facebook and Twitter. Rather than relying on location-based social apps to track family members, some people use Life360. It’s essentially a private social platform with real-time geotracking and messaging. Get to know the people who live near you with Nextdoor. What’sApp is a simple platform for sharing video, photos, and voice and text messages with people around the world.
As social media apps continue to evolve, their core function remains the same: Give users a way to share information with the people they select. In some instances, these apps let users go beyond traditional privacy boundaries by sharing their location. However, social media apps also make life more organized, safer, and more connected.
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