Today…it just hit me

Path Screenshot of my run
The craziest part of this screen capture is the ultra low battery level

In almost every bio I use on social media sites, I typically describe myself as a “self professed social media nerd” (sometimes geek, depending on my mood). Aside from my constant social media addiction, I also like to run. When I run, I use the Nike+ GPS app to track my runs and share them on Facebook, Twitter and Path (I know, some people hate it, but I’m damn proud of surpassing my goals and I’m gonna boast about it!). This past weekend, I forgot my headphones. Ugh. Now instead of the distraction of pulsing beats and moving rhythm, I was going to have to listen to…nature. Not exactly motivating, but I carried on undeterred.

Without my distraction, as would be expected, I started paying a little more attention to what was going on around me. I saw a family of four: the dad fishing, the mother, son and daughter dipping their toes in the water. I noticed people walking their pets. I noticed people lazily lounging in the shade and on benches. One thing that every one of these people had in common, was they had their noses buried in a smartphone. I could’ve ran up carrying a giant sized, Warcraft style battle axe and attacked the guy walking his dog, and he’d have been none the wiser. As a matter of fact, had I not changed direction, we would definitely have collided. There was a couple walking side by side, not saying a word to each other, but both furiously texting away. And the family? The only one not on a phone was the dad, who had his hands full with his fishing rod. Now I’ve caught some flak from my girlfriend on more than one occasion for pulling out my phone to check-in on foursquare (I’m hooked on the gamification of trying to accrue mayorships and beat my friends in points) and logging a funny quote from the evening immediately on Facebook. I still manage, however, to find times to disconnect. I truly think we still need to do that.

Photo from TED.com

In her TED talk, “Connected, but not alone?”, Sherry Turkle discusses how this constant connectivity not only changes what we do, but also who we are. It changes the way that we relate to others, but also the way we relate to ourselves. It’s a very interesting and definitely worth a watch. The generation that is growing up with this technology may develop an inability to actually relate to other people, especially face to face, and not develop the crucial communication skills they need to form real relationships. She makes the case that people may eventually prefer digital connection, or even connection to a digital device or robot, to real human interaction. Interesting and terrifying.

On that happy and joyful note I leave you to think about this. Also, if anyone out there is using Path, send me a friend request. I literally only actually know 3 people on there, and I have one more person that added me and I excitedly accepted. I’d be willing to add randos if I know we have something in common. Thanks for reading. Now it’s your turn. What do you think about our constant connectivity and how it affects our relationships? I’d love to collect people’s thoughts into a follow-up blog next week, quoting some highlights, so please give your feedback below!

Now go get your social on!

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Mobile App Review – Path

I use the Nike + GPS app to record my sad attempts at running. It’s nice to have the occasional, “Hey, you didn’t suck as much as last time” motivational shout-outs that it provides at times. Recently, I went to record one of my runs and the app asked me if I wanted to share my run on Path. I saw the below icon, and thought it would be great because, in my post-run haze, I mistakenly thought the icon looked similar to the Pinterest icon. I actually was thinking, if it was associated with Pinterest and would be posting my runs in an album, that would be awesome! It is NOT associated with Pinterest, by the way.

Path not Pinterest
Red and white 'P' does not a Pinterest make...


San Francisco-based 
Path launched in 2010 and, according to its website, the privately held company has a base of about 2 million users. The website goes on to explain that it allows you to keep a personal journal, “or Path”, of your life and should help you authentically express yourself and share your personal life with loved ones Path has a healthy following on Facebook  and on Twitter, as well as over 300 followers on LinkedIn so their online presence and following is pretty well established. It floats dangerously close to Facebook in certain aesthetic aspects. Most notably, Path allows you a “profile picture” and a “cover picture” with the profile picture showing up in a bubble in the lower left corner of the cover picture (example of mine here) on your profile. They may catch flak for that, if they haven’t already.  The feed also resembles Facebook quite a bit, but there isn’t a whole lot of variation available for a feed, I suppose. One area that Path ventures away from Facebook is that is is focused almost exclusively as a mobile interface, rather than on your computer. You can make changes to your profile settings on your Mac or PC, but your feed and your ability to post anything are exclusively on your mobile device. This stems from Path’s focus on being a modern journal for a modern age. It is meant to be with you wherever you go. It has yet to be seen whether a lack of a computer interface will help or hinder Path’s future.My first impression of this app was not a good one. It messed up while registering my account, and reloaded the page, then told me that my email and phone number already existed. I gave up on it until I returned home from my run and saw the email for my registered account. I then decided to give it another go. It got better.

Those facts aside, there are actually some pretty slick features that this app has which make me glad that I moved forward with setting it up.

  1. The creators of Path were smart to allow integration with the other heavy hitters, rather than simply try to compete with them. All of your posts are shareable on Facebook, twitter, Tumblr, and Foursquare. This integration is likely a key success factor for Path.
  2. You have the option to share music that you are currently listening to. When you click the button to do this, Path automatically checks your music player to see what your ARE listening to. It then makes suggestions to post so that you don’t have to search for your song and artist. Occasionally though, if you have a more obscure artist or album, Path can’t find it. I’d be interested to know where they pull their music database from. It does an admirable job for most popular artists, however.
  3. As with most social sites, you can post who are you with (once you’ve found friends on Path), where you are (if you have location services turned on), upload pictures and post comments. You won’t feel too lost using Path if you are already using some of the other major social sites.
  4. Another function, albeit a little bit of a strange one, is the ability to tell friends when you’ve gone to bed and when you wake up. I’m not really sure that I see the use of this outside of people knowing that they can’t bother you because you’ve already gone to bed. I’d love to find out if there is a specific point that Path creators were trying to achieve by adding this feature. If there were a first thing to go in a major overhaul, it would likely be this feature.
  5. All of the above options come from a really cool little pop-up menu in the bottom left corner of your screen. It’s a pretty slick, smooth interface with multiple buttons popping up and going back to being hidden with the touch of a little + or x.
  6. As you scroll through the timeline of events, a little clock pops up to show you the time of each item’s posting. It moves along as you scroll and the little hands furiously move to the next “time stamp” of each post. It’s a fun little feature, actually.
  7. Path offers emoticons that you can add to posts of your own or those of friends. You can add a smiley, frown, wink and surprised face. There is also a little heart option. I would liken this to the ‘Like’ button on Facebook.
  8. The way that Path integrates with Nike + GPS is probably one of the most solid functions Path brings to the table for me, and likely where it can gain an even stronger footing. Once you finish a run while using the Nike app, you can post to your social networks via sharing options within the app (Facebook, Twitter and Path). On Path, a map of your run (example of my own here) gets posted showing your route, your mileage and length of time right on the map! I could see this being a good way to get a bunch of your workout/health nut friends together in one social space and be able to share, cheer each other on, and keep motivated while avoiding the inevitable groans from your Facebook friends (if you post your workouts/runs on your Facebook Timeline.) If you see that a friend is on a run, you can actually click their Path and send them a cheer. And who doesn’t like a little encouragement every now and then?

Overall, I think Path has potential for stay power if they keep the momentum up, and I will likely continue to use it just to see where it may go. I’m interested to see in what ways it “learns” from my activity, which the website claims it will do. I am likely going to have to invite friends so that it becomes fun because, out of my numerous email and Facebook contacts, I’ve found ONE person using Path. I think adding a small bio section and the ability to search other users by interest or location would be greatly helpful in allowing users to add worthwhile connections rather than random. I would love to find other people around Austin using Path.

Being still pretty much in its youth, time will tell whether this becomes the next big thing in social, or if Path simply falls by the wayside as so many do. I can’t say I’m not rooting for it to stay around a little longer though. 

Have you already heard of Path? Are you using it? If not, do you think having a place to share your exercise goals is worth another social network? Chime in!

Now go get your social on!