transport app

Mapping Fate

It was fate. He stopped me for directions on the street one day and we’ve been together ever since.

This is the story of how Frankie met her husband twenty-seven years ago. A story nearly inconceivable now in the age of Google Maps, Citymapper and Uber. 

Living in London there is not a day that goes by where I don’t consult Citymapper or Google Maps for directions. I rely on these apps to tell me where to go, how to get there, and when to get there. They not only plan my journey – but my life. What would happen I often wonder if I didn’t follow their directions? If I threw caution to the wind and decided to leave my house at whatever time I pleased to find my own way?

Does our pervasive use of apps alter the course of our lives more than we give them credit for? Are chance encounters, being in the “right place at the right time” becoming less and less a stoke of luck or fate, but rather a consequence of journey planners? Since May 2013 alone app downloads have more than doubled from 50 billion downloads to over 100 billion. Not only the way we interact and learn about each other but ourselves is changing irrevocably.

Of course many apps help to make our lives manageable and the apps that have the most success are the ones that address an existing need. @nireyal says that apps present users with an implicit choice between their old way of doing things and the new, more convenient solution. However, by maintaining our freedom to choose, these products facilitate the adoption of new habits and change our behaviour for good.

We all use apps to satisfy a desire. “What we fantasise about, what we long for, are the experiences, the things and the people that are absent,” says Adam Phillips in his book Missing Out; In Praise of the Unlived LifeTinder alone claims 26 million matches made using its services every single day. How many of us have apps that we use to encourage us to get fit, save money, and meet that perfect someone?

We use these apps to live somewhere between the lives we have and the lives we would like. We provide these apps with our most personal information. We confess to them our spending habits, our sex lives, our secrets. Our apps know more about us than some of our closest friends.

I can’t help but to wonder if these apps that we rely so heavily on are limiting our knowledge? When Amanda Scherker lost her smartphone she actually gained a better sense of direction. Could we all be missing out, perhaps not just on a greater sense of direction, but on the chance of a lifetime by “google mapping it”?

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