The age of technology has opened doors that weren’t even a thought just a few years ago. According to the Pew Research Center, in 2013, 80 percent of Americans owned a smartphone.
Along with smartphones have come the rise of the app. Daily, people use popular apps such as Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat. One of the newest apps that is sweeping the social media scene is Meerkat.
Meekat is an app that connect to a user’s Twitter feed. It allows the user to live stream a video feed to their users, showing what they are doing in that exact moment. The app was launched at the South by Southwest festival in Austin at the beginning of March. Meerkat viewers can hold conversations with the streamer via a text chat, while the streamer can respond either by text or verbally. This allows people from all over the world to share an experience that would not be possible in the real world.
A viewer in Canada can share a car ride with someone in England. Users from all over the world can watch a concert together via live stream. People can watch comedians like Jimmy Fallon and Jim Gaffigan make jokes directly to the camera that are spontaneous and exclusive to viewers. Apps like this are changing the way we experience both entertainment and social media, and will be a huge and important part of the future.
David Grossblatt is a popular featured streamer on Meerkat. He is the CEO and founder of Founder’s Dojo, based in San Fransisco. It is a collaborative start up company founded in 2008. Their website states, “We believe that diversity is a vital element of success. We are a mix of established companies and new companies helping each other under the hood.”
They are personally connected with Product Hunt. Founder Ryan Hoover “was friends with the Dojo, and then he started Product Hunt,” said Grossblatt. Product Hunt is a website that showcases the best new apps, websites, hardware projects, and tech creations daily. “Meerkat kind of popped up on Product Hunt, and I would say that our little clan of friends were amongst the very first people to start using it.”
“The first few days, it was just me and guys I know very well. We were just on there doing silly chat room stuff,” said Grossblatt. “I don’t remember when I started broadcasting and it became interesting enough that people started watching.”
He has become well known on Meerkat for his car and bike rides around San Fransisco. He receives up to 1,000 viewers at a time. “I love talking about San Fransisco,” he said, “I was realizing that I was getting a lot more exercise. So I was like, okay, I’m just going to keep doing this because it’s giving me more exercise.”
Many people may be skeptical about the idea of having so many people knowing where they are at any given time. However, most of the social media networks that people use already share their location with their friends.
Grossblatt “questions how much more it really increases risk. I mean, I’m pretty out there already. All the places I work and live are listed online, and I’m active on Facebook.” Any person can type a name into Google, and things such as addresses, phone numbers, work places, and social media profiles will immediately be at the top of the search results. “It’s pretty easy to find information on anyone,” he said, “and I know how easy it is to track down anyone from a perspective of using third parties like databases.”
“The question is not do people know, but am I relatively secure?,” said Grossblatt. “I do think about that a little bit for my kids, but my kids have grown up watching families on YouTube. I also think the reality is everyone is being recorded at all times anyway. So the question really is, is this any less secure than what’s going on around us all the time anyway? I think the answer is no. I don’t think it increases risk. “
The way society views security is changing. With increases in technology, being secure doesn’t mean living in fear and shutting people out, but using the technology to connect and trust each other. “When I’m walking around at night, I like streaming,” said Grossblatt. “I have 20 to 30 people walking around with me. If something crazy went down, I know my viewers would be like, “911!” There is a lot of security in that.”
Meerkat could be a great asset in protecting oneself. A person can stream their walk alone to the dorms and feel safe knowing that they are not alone and are on camera if anything bad was to happen. If someone is getting verbally or physically harassed, all they have to do is turn on Meerkat and the criminal would be broadcast live. Many civilians feel awkward about being on camera anyway, so seeing a person with a phone held up recording would make them less likely to even consider doing anything illegal.
People stalking others on Meerkat is an unlikely scenario. Online profiles allow scammers to create fake people who can only be represented online, by stealing other’s pictures and information. On Meerkat, you have no choice but to be yourself on camera.
Grossblatt thinks people’s concerns about safety is a case of “megalomania, if you think people actually care. I see that in my Twitter feed. Just comments flying all around. When you stop streaming, it’s silent.”
Meerkat’s rival app, Periscope, came out only a few days after Meerkat. While Meerkat has the advantage of being the first live streaming app released, user friendly design, and a memorable name and logo, Periscope was directly created by Twitter. Only time will tell which app will be the most popular one to use. The possibility of Facebook releasing their own live stream app cannot be ruled out. With Meerkat being ahead of the game, many people may have already integrated live streaming as part of their daily routine before Facebook jumps on the bandwagon.
In today’s fast paced age, people have no time to socially connect with others. The only way to combat this unfortunate byproduct of technology integration and overload is by using it to connect with others in a positive way, if only for a moment, and if only through a computer or phone screen.
“The world is so noisy,” said Grossblatt. “I’m only in most people’s consciousness while I’m streaming. As soon as I cut off my stream, no one cares. The fact that we can just connect for a second, that’s the miracle.”