I was sitting on the beach with my friend the other day and we were exasperatedly talking about how both of our moms had access to our location on “Find My Friends.” Independence in college often causes worry among our family, friends and significant others. So it’s tricky territory when trying to decide who should have privileged access to our location and who shouldn’t.
The answer is slightly complicated. No matter the individual, whether you decide to share your location or not with someone in your life should be a deliberate decision that comes with full understanding of the consequences.
Oversharing is a problem in our society, especially amongst millennials. From endless selfies to photos of every meal, we divulge every moment of our lives in our posts. We take snapshots of our luxurious vacations, with not a thought in our minds about how displaying that we’re away on vacation publicly on Instagram is giving away that we’re not at home — a.k.a giving potential thieves an overwhelmingly easy target. That’s why I adopt the rule of posting pictures of my vacations after the fact — back when vacations were a thing (thanks corona!).
But perhaps the bigger issue is deciding whether personally sharing your location with those in your life is creepy or convenient? Some would argue location sharing is more helpful than harmful, allowing one to know where a person is for convenience if meeting up, or if splitting up in an unfamiliar city. Psychologically though, our location can feel a little personal. Some of my friends are adamant on not sharing their location with each other, while others couldn’t care less. Some people fight to maintain their privacy, while others view it as overrated.
I remember the first time I shared my location with a friend in high school when we were going out together. She walked up to me the next day asking how my trip to Baskin Robbins was, which was enough to make me slightly wary of letting people know my whereabouts. My trip to get ice cream was not necessarily the most sacred or secret activity, but it was enough to make me wonder: Do I want people in my life to know my location at all times? It wasn’t an issue of me being embarrassed to be seen going to certain places, but more so of wanting to retain some piece of my own life as my own.
And don’t even get me started on Snap Maps.
I will never quite understand the need to see where every Snapchat friend is, but addictingly I find myself checking it sometimes, wanting to know what people are up to. Even the police have warned against sharing our location on Snapchat out of fear of the risks of everyone on our Snapchat friends list knowing our location.
But perhaps the bigger issue is deciding whether personally sharing your location with those in your life is creepy or convenient?
Perhaps we have succumbed to a society that values oversharing, where our locked tweets, private Snapchat stories and “finsta” accounts give a very specific and real glimpse into our lives that otherwise are not shown on our “real” accounts. Curiosity and nosiness is unfortunately something engrained within most of us.
But the difference is that location sharing is about much more than just privacy; it’s sometimes about safety. Location sharing can be a matter of life and death. Knowing where your partner, child or friend is during times of crisis can be fundamental. GPS on our cell phones leaves behind an electronic footprint that can help police solve missing persons cases, only after obtaining a warrant or subpoena to gain access to the device. If our family, friends or significant other had access to this, it could be essential to our safety.
This facet is why I have little to no problem sharing my location with my mom. Knowing that having my location makes her less worried is all I need to be comfortable with it. While my friends and I may sigh in exasperation at our moms’ ability to infiltrate every piece of our lives, we have to realize that this worry comes with the job of being a mom.
However, with this comfort comes the uncomfy feeling of sharing my location with friends in my life. I have a lingering need for some sort of autonomy. While keeping my location private doesn’t necessarily translate into autonomy, it feels like a piece of me that gives an inside look into my life. Would you want someone to know when you’re going to pee? It’s essentially two sides of the same coin. It feels like someone is in my closet watching my every move. It feels scary, not because I don’t trust people, but because I need some privacy.
And then comes a whole new realm: sharing your location with your boyfriend/girlfriend. After much deliberation, I have decided the merit of this depends on individual circumstances. Sharing your location with a significant other seems justified at first glance. And in some cases it is.
Location sharing with a partner can feel intimate, and ultimately connect you in knowing each other is safe. While trust is important to build, if your partner is jealous in nature, this could prove detrimental to a relationship. Not to mention, if a relationship turns south quickly, you may not want a person you once considered an essential part of your life to have access to your location.
Ultimately, it depends on if sharing your location would help or hurt your relationship. One of my friends and her boyfriend decided they should have each other’s locations after hearing that this is “normal” from another couple, which I think is the wrong way to view location sharing.
Cultural norms regarding how much of our privacy we “should” be sharing should be thrown out the window, and we should instead think carefully about the value of our own privacy, not only in terms of our safety, but also in terms of our individualism. Despite all of this, it’s important to make good decisions to protect yourself at the end of the day.
Joshen Mantai wants you to think carefully about who you choose to share your location with, because it is ultimately your decision.