The Hard Facts: Can Your Phone Find You Friends?

It’s Research Wednesday! Where I share the latest, or most fascinating, in the science of friendship.

“Based on a new patent application published today, it seems Apple has been exploring far more ambitious attempts [at delving into the social networking market] using the iPhone, location-based services and interest matching. The result is the possibility that your iPhone could find you your next friend, business partner or date.” (“Apple Researching How the iPhone Can Help You Make Friends,”, 6/16/2011)

Perhaps this falls under the technology of friendship, rather than the science of it, but I think it qualifies for Research Wednesday.

This full article explains the concept behind a potential iPhone friend-finder quite well—with a picture!—but for those who want the 60-second version, here it is: Apple is proposing that it might be able to use information from your phone, stuff like what songs or books you’ve downloaded, or where you’ve traveled, to find like-minded potential friends in your neighborhood. Explains “You will be able to find others in your immediate vicinity that might match your interests and introduce yourself to them through your iPhone. … For example, GPS tracking could identify people who have traveled to the same locations. Phone numbers and contacts can be compared, as well as common bookmarks or games played on device.”

Before you call out the privacy police, let me be clear that, according to this site, if the technology became available it would be an opt-in affair. You would have to “allow” other phones to find you and mine your information.

My favorite part of this whole concept is the wording of Apple’s patent application. Here’s my favorite bit: “Identifying like-minded people, however, often requires a substantial amount of and time and effort because identifying new persons with common interests for friendships is difficult. For example, when two strangers meet, it may take a long and awkward conversation to discover their common interests or experiences.” There’s something strangely satisfying about a company like Apple publicly recognizing, on the record, to the government, that making friends is difficult and awkward.

Thank you Steve Jobs. I feel validated.

Slightly creepy? Sure. Uber Big Brother? Of course. But oh how I wish this technology came out in 2010, when I was at the height of my friending guinea pig days. I would have gone all stalker on some potential BFF, showing up at Nookies while she was enjoying a nice brunch, because of course my phone would have alerted me to her whereabouts.”Good morning! You don’t know me but I see you also play Solitaire and have downloaded The Glass Castle to your phone. And according to my phone, which mined the data of your phone, which tracks your whereabouts with GPS, you’ve been to Croatia. So have I! Be my best friend?”

‘Cause that wouldn’t be weird.

Or maybe it would be a modern-day platonic You’ve Got Mail. Our phones would tell us to be BFFs, and when we finally met up—using iPhone user tracking systems, obvs—we would come face-to-face only to realize we’d known each other all along. Swoon.

Thoughts? Is this technology creepy? Or just the next step in social networking?


Filed under The Search

5 responses to “The Hard Facts: Can Your Phone Find You Friends?

  1. Karen A.

    Uh Oh, this could open a whole new can of second guessing friendship: my phone said you did go to “our” favorite salon, club, etc, without me? what’s up with that? Perhaps a bit of ignorance really is bliss?

  2. Megan

    Well, it clearly is the next step in social media, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t creepy. I mean, it’s things like this that make social media creepy (at least to me) in general. I just wonder, what is driving developments like this? The loneliness in America? Haven’t we already learned that technology doesn’t actually help with that? Sigh.

  3. Droplet

    Conversely, for the creeper in all of us, could we stand in a crowded Barnes and Noble, whip out our phone using the GPS, and instantly know what every other shopper’s name/profile/interest is? Like basically a big thought bubble just appears over their head? 🙂

  4. foxflat

    Did any of you read Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart? This is creepily sounding a lot like that.

  5. Leigh

    This is an interesting concept, in hindsight, NOT in real time.

    I have a new friend who, as it turns out, was at the same obscure concerts/lectures/screenings that I attended back in the day. (We met through mutual friends who didn’t partake in these events). So it doesn’t surprise me that technology would catch-up and “have an app for that.”

    But I don’t know if we would have had a friendship spark at the John Water’s Live Interview, or the exclusive premiere of “Stranger with Candy: the movie” or at any of our I-was-there commonalities. We were at different places in our lives back then; I was a college student and he was married. Now, I’m post-grad and he’s in a relationship with another one of my friends. It makes much more sense that we’re friends today, as oppose to five years ago. Just like we can outgrow and distance ourselves from friends, we can also develop friendships that fit with who we are, now and who we will become. Relationships are just fluid like that.

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