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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

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