Kismet is an app, a feeling, a fleeting moment. It is one’s fate or destiny – a predetermined course of events. If you believe in all that kind of stuff, of course. The makers of the Kismet app, along with other ambient location-based social apps which quietly tell you which friends are nearby, seem to think it’s both real and marketable.
So it feels quite kismet that last week, right before SXSWi started, Facebook decided to unleash a few more location-targeting offerings. We have already argued that such ambient location-based social apps will be consumer duds that do not pass the eye test. That is, they do not solve a real-world problem. Nor do they create a need where there was not already one. And most of all, they do not successfully create the effect of kismet. It’s something that you can’t manufacture or predict.
Location is Optional
On Facebook, developers now have APIs for setting locations on post and objects (photos and videos) and for tagging friends. Facebook is getting better at providing search for places, and for finding posts from friends based purely on location. And there is nothing to install, no creepy “allow this app all your data” type vague questions, like the address book information upload test that Path failed. You’ve already provided Facebook with all the information it needs. Every ambient social location app hooks into the Facebook social graph. And besides, Facebook already bought Gowalla, which was competing closely with Foursquare at SXSWi just a few years ago.
When Facebook Places launched in 2010, users seemed more receptive than they were about the purely location-based social network such as Foursquare. Location baked into a network made more sense to users than a network based purely on location.
Facebook has also figured out that “the places people have gone in the past are just as integral to their identity as what they did there and who they were with,” according to the Facebook Developer Blog. Location builds the supposedly linear timeline story of your life, yet it can also just tell a story of the minute details of your banal life. Yet unlike location-specific apps or networks, Facebook treats location as a mix of active Foursquare-like check-ins and passive ambient social location app tracking. Location is optional on Facebook, and the user can control their own levels of public and private.
Kismet & Location in the Age of Social Media Celebrity
We live in a bizarre reality, sacrificing communication for connection. Purely ambient location-based social apps are a manifestation of just how alone we really are becoming, broadcasting our lives, thoughts and ideas to others via social networks. We visit Facebook at the end of a long day rather than talking to the person in the same room as us. We hide behind our glass screens, and we like it that way.
In the world of social media, “celebrity” is a combination of social status and social media presence.
On Facebook Timeline, we see ourselves on the cover of a magazine. We become social media celebrities in the face of our friends and followers, if only for a moment. Warhol was right when he said that everyone would one day get their 15 minutes of fame. Facebook is modern-day Pop Art – it’s a place where we all go to like things, to like our friends and pictures that we see. From a 1963 interview in Pop Art magazine:
- Andy Warhol: I think everybody should like everybody.
- Gene Swenson: Is that what Pop Art is all about?
- Andy Warhol: Yes, it’s liking things.
On Facebook, it’s all about the Like button. Those four letters changed everything.
How Kismet it is to be Alone Together in Front of Our Phones
“You can’t go into a coffee shop without seeing people staring at their phones,” Kismet Co-founder Michelle Norgan told the New York Times. “The phone is the new icebreaker and these apps remind you that there are people nearby to interact with, that you have friends and things in common with them. It is a push to get people to get their heads out of their phones and back into that one-on-one.”
That is a horrifying statement. Has it really come to this?
Maybe it’s not all bad. One of Kismet’s main features, at least, is showing common friends. “We don’t use Facebook Likes as a matching tool,” Kismet CEO Kevin Stephens tells ReadWriteWeb.”In fact, we go a step further and show the entire common friends graph if you’re 3 or 4 degrees away from someone.”
But by connecting to the Facebook social graph, Kismet and apps may help you meet someone new who shares a common interest, but does that mean you’ll want to get to know them? What’s more kismet is meeting someone and realizing you have a variety of friends in common – and that you actually want to get to know each other. There’s always the making Facebook friends with strangers route.
Or just walk up to someone and say hello and shake their hand. Introduce yourself like a real human. That’s where the real “getting out of your head” phenomenon begins. And that feels like kismet, to me.
Image via Shutterstock.