If someone told me 10 years ago that 500 million of us would get hooked on sharing personal information, including our relationship status, likes and dislikes and even our current whereabouts, I'd have shaken my head, contemplated the privacy implications and proclaimed that only self-absorbed freaks would take part.
Today, as Facebook Places launches in Canada, I'm still of the mindset that location-based services will be more beneficial as a business tool than as a friendship tool, allowing companies to offer web-connected consumers discounts and special offers. However, it begs the question, what do services like Places and Foursquare mean to us?
I can't help but think that as a society we are slowly peeling back the layers of personal privacy and exposing a little more digital skin each and every year. While 10 years ago we might have been shy about announcing we'd just had a horrendous fight with a boyfriend and are now single, take a peek at a site like Your Open Book. It's a website that lets you scan public status updates (profiles that are not locked down with stringent privacy settings) and discover just how much oversharing there is out there.
For many, sharing is a bold new way to publicly establish who we are and what we're all about. However, the same people (myself included) who are okay with broadcasting status updates may still find Places a little too invasive.
As Facebook explains, we're already sharing "who," "what," and "when," so "where" is the next logical step. That means, for iPhone users in Canada, you can check in to Places at any location and find others who are nearby. Other people can also tag you, via status update or photo, so others can know your location, too.
Right now I can confidently say that I won't be using Places any time soon. I don't need to tell people my exact location. Most of the time I'm updating my Facebook status at home (and I'd rather not have my friends, as lovely as you all are, show up).
That said, in the back of my head there's a nagging little voice telling me I may change my ways. As half a billion users slowly latch on to Places and gradually get more and more comfortable sharing their location with their Facebook followers, I may find myself wondering who's nearby. Maybe then Places will creep into my high-tech life.
As for what's next for Facebook, after sucking the who, what, when, and where out of us, the only question we might ask ourselves is why we so easily gave it all up.