Christopher Mims

A View from Christopher Mims

Social Networking Is About to Get Way More Annoying

If you’re old enough to remember a time before the Internet, be prepared to reconsider your state’s prohibition on the right to die.

  • December 8, 2011

MagnetU is a $24 device that broadcasts your social media profile to everyone around you. If anyone else with a MagnetU has a profile that matches yours sufficiently, the device will alert both of you via text and/or an app. Or, as founder Yaron Moradi told Mashable in a video interview, “MagnetU brings Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter and other online social networks to the street.”

Moradi calls this process “wearing your social desires,” and anyone who’s ever attempted online dating can tell you that machines are poor substitutes for your own judgement when it comes to determining with whom you’ll actually want to connect.

You don’t have to be a pundit to come up with a long list of Mr. McCrankypants reasons this is a terrible idea, from the overwhelming volume of distraction we already face to the fact that unless this is a smash hit, the only people MagnetU will connect you to are other desperately lonely geeks.

My primary objection, however, is not that this device or something like it won’t work, but that if it does, it will have the Facebook-like effect of pushing even those who loathe it on principle into participating, just because everyone else is using it and those who don’t will be left out in real life.

“MagnetU lets you wear your social desires… Anything from your social and dating preferences to business matches in conferences,” says Moradi. By which he means this will be very popular with Robert Scoble and anyone who already has Grindr loaded onto his or her phone.

Also, there is the issue that your “friends” will from this day forward be referred to as nodes, and your entire life will be re-framed in terms of graph theory and marketing speak. Moradi, again:

“Once you hit the street, MagnetU starts building and creating automatic dynamic social proximity networks with people you like around you. These social proximity networks are called dynamic social proximity circles.”

Developers who have less sinister notions about what to do with MagnetU are welcome to tinker with the device’s new API.

Follow @Mims or contact him via email

Become an MIT Technology Review Insider for in-depth analysis and unparalleled perspective.
Subscribe today

Uh oh–you've read all five of your free articles for this month.

Insider Premium

$179.95/yr US PRICE

More from undefined

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe and become an Insider.

  • Insider Premium {! insider.prices.premium !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Our award winning magazine, unlimited access to our story archive, special discounts to MIT Technology Review Events, and exclusive content.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Bimonthly home delivery and unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website.

    The Download. Our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation.

    Access to the Magazine archive. Over 24,000 articles going back to 1899 at your fingertips.

    Special Discounts to select partner offerings

    Discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Ad-free web experience

    First Look. Exclusive early access to stories.

    Insider Conversations. Join in and ask questions as our editors talk to innovators from around the world.

  • Insider Plus {! insider.prices.plus !}* Best Value

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Everything included in Insider Basic, plus ad-free web experience, select discounts to partner offerings and MIT Technology Review events

    See details+

    What's Included

    Bimonthly home delivery and unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website.

    The Download. Our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation.

    Access to the Magazine archive. Over 24,000 articles going back to 1899 at your fingertips.

    Special Discounts to select partner offerings

    Discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Ad-free web experience

  • Insider Basic {! insider.prices.basic !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Six issues of our award winning magazine and daily delivery of The Download, our newsletter of what’s important in technology and innovation.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Bimonthly home delivery and unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website.

    The Download. Our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation.

You've read of free articles this month.