I have reached the point at which the Town Crier warning the villagers about the evils of social media barely registers. It’s white noise to me now. “Yes” I think, “Facebook has taken your mature, socially sophisticated, confident teenager and turned her into a gossiping over-sensitive bully.” (I think this with the soundtrack of The Music Man in my head. “It starts with ‘F’ that rhymes with…”) I roll my eyes and pound my fist upon hearing that parents and therapists view Facebook postings as a clue to the inner workings of adolescents. Evidently, talking to your children or patients does not produce as much insight as does as a status update. The only thing separating a status update from a scribble on a notebook cover or a diary is its audience, not its nature. When people start wringing their consumer hands over the privacy of social media, I scream into my throw pillow (purchased with a credit card, online.) Unless you live in a yurt and only traffic in the cash you store under your mattress, your privacy has already been invaded.
But when an airline is going to let people select a seatmate through their connections on Facebook and Linkedin? Hand me a pitchfork. I, perhaps like you, use Linkedin to connect with former and current colleagues, and business contacts. There is nothing about these rather formal and superficial categories which would suggest I want to be trapped sitting next to them for three+ hours in a flying can, or on the tarmac for that matter. What if I’m flying to a job interview, or to a not entirely kosher consulting gig? What if I’m on my way to a funeral? Do I really want to sit next to that tool in personnel whom I could not afford to not connect with? While Facebook provides a network a bit more personally meaningful than Linkedin, I still don’t want someone to make a transcontinental date with me without asking. Look for me at the gate. Security procedures and delays being what they are, we’ll have hours to catch up and perhaps then decide to try and sit together. I do not want to go through all the aggravations of planning my travel, be patted down and searched, have my chapstick confiscated, wait at the gate for hours with people eating fried foods in their pajamas, listen to blaring CNN, board a can that smells of disinfectant and fuel, find my seat, shot-put my carry-on, settle myself in, and then hear “Surprise!” I don’t think our reminiscing about 6th grade will make it past the runway. And you know what? Without those George Takei photos, I’m not sure either of us is all that interesting. It’s hard to believe that the airline industry doesn’t have enough problems. Do they want to get into the business of enabling stalking?