Find My Friends, Apple’s your-friends-are-now-live-dots-on-a-map social network, is here! Do you like the idea of seeing the location of everyone you care about, constantly? Does this idea completely terrify you? Either way, take my hand, and let’s use it right.
First things first! You’ll need an iCloud account to get in on the half-fun/half-unsettling action. Then, you’ll need the email addresses attached to your friends’ iCloud accounts (this is an iOS 5/iCloud-only party). Oh let’s do it!
Why should I use Find My Friends?
Not to state the obvious, but if you want to find your friends. The app’s extremely minimal — it’s just people on a Google Map. If you like the idea of being able to se where your friends are without having to ask, you’ll probably like Find My Friends. But there’s a catch: people will want to see where you are too. It’s a two way spyglass. Let’s establish this right now: if you want to see where people are but don’t want them to see you, don’t use Find My Friends. There’s a social contract here. That said, you don’t have to throw your privacy down the well.
Who should I ask to follow?
Find My Friends has a very weird quirk: friending isn’t reciprocal. Unlike Facebook and Foursquare, if I ask to link up with you on FMF and you say yes, that doesn’t mean I can see your location. You’ll have to put in a separate request to see my whereabouts. Which brings us to a major point: don’t ask to follow someone who you don’t want following you too. A one way relationship says I’m nosey, but I think you’re creepy. You don’t wanna say that!
As well, don’t ask to follow casual acquaintances. It’s OK to Facebook friend someone after a fun night at a bar–but asking for their real-time coordinates if you’re not actual pals or serious coworkers is weird. Don’t ask for someone’s social security number when you first meet them. Don’t ask to follow them on FMF either.
What if someone I don’t/like/know/trust asks to follow me?
Ignore it. Just like Facebook, there’s a FMF purgatory. Let that invite sit, collect dust and be forgotten. You don’t need to worry about a Hey, why haven’t you accepted my Find My Friends request, chief? run-in, because you probably aren’t friends to begin with! How easy. There’s nothing rude about not wanting to constantly share your location around the clock with someone you feel uneasy about. Privacy may be dead, but its corpse still looks handsome.
What’s this temporary sharing business?
Apple thought it’d offer you a nice compromise between comfort and convenience: if you don’t want someone to be able to follow you permanently, you can give them temporary access. Say, they’ll be able to follow your tracks until tomorrow at 5pm. This could be useful under very narrow circumstances — like a camping trip with strangers? Or a work trip to a convention centre with people you don’t really care about that much? This is an extremely niche feature — more likely than not, using it with someone you’re genuinely friendly with will say I like you, but only 18 hours worth. Avoid temporary sharing if possible.
What if I want a break?
Give yourself one. Navigate to the “Me” section of FMF and switch on “Hide from Followers”. You’re gone. Stay gone for as long as you want. You’re entitled to be free of real-time location tracking from your entire social sphere. Keep in mind that if you aren’t invisible, FMF will ping your phone’s location constantly in the background. Not only will this give everyone detailed information where you are, but it’ll stick a knife in your battery’s gut. A big rusty one.
Major Caveat: Don’t abuse hiding — you can still look at your friends on the map even when you’re off of it. It’s totally cool to go off the grid, but don’t use it to be a superstalker. Remember the people who would download songs from Kazaa but turn off sharing on their end? Yeah, those people were arseholes. Don’t be like that. Share and share alike, my friends.