Opinion Web Exclusive

Cloak app is the new anti-social network

Gone are the days when you have real excuses to run into someone you don’t want to. With a new app called Cloak, anyone can avoid whomever they choose thanks to geolocation technology.

Cloak is the work of Brian Moore and former Buzzfeed creative director Chris Baker. It’s marketed as “incognito mode for real life.”

Cloak pulls in the location data from your contacts’ Instagram geolocation tagging and Foursquare check-ins. You choose whichever contacts you want to avoid and flag them. A push notification will alert you if said contact is in your vicinity.

“Sometimes you are put in awkward situations, so it would be nice to avoid those kinds of situations before they happen,” said public relations junior Christina Nemry.

What makes the Cloak app intriguing is its specific-use functionality that caters to its niche audience. With the overwhelming flood of updates from Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, the trend is leaning toward one-use apps. People are simply tired of the oversharing on public forums and are making a shift toward apps that connect them with their real friends.

Load the app, connect to Instagram and Foursquare and the app will pull up a nifty map with all your flagged contacts. The personal uses for Cloak are endless: avoid your ex, parents or that creepy individual that pops up out of nowhere.

“If you got into an argument with someone and it ended on bad terms, you could use the app to completely avoid that individual,” Nemry said.

The downside is that it all depends on whether the people you want to avoid actually check in anywhere. If they’re not showing their location, you’ll have to depend on old-school techniques to avoid that unwanted encounter.

Contrary to how it’s marketed as an “anti-social network,” people have found new, creative ways to utilize Cloak. Rather than flagging undesirables, people have been flagging friends — the people they actually want to run into.

We don’t always plan to run into the friends we haven’t seen, but Cloak speeds up and aids in the process of you discovering people nearby.

To call Cloak “the anti-social network” would be a misnomer. We, as a society, have reached a point where being off Facebook and all of these endless social networks doesn’t mean we’re anti-social.

It means we’re going back to what “social” used to mean — the face-to-face interactions we have with people. Perhaps not completely face-to-face, but a balance of technology and intimate connections with your friends will be the future.

Take Snapchat, for example. Snapchat differs from other photo-sharing networks in the sense that you’re sharing that particular moment with a specific audience. You get to choose who sees the photo, rather than all of your 1,000 Facebook friends.

Rather than replacing social networks altogether, the future of social media “might be more fractured,” Baker said on Bloomberg.

“The data is already out there on Foursquare and Instagram,” Moore said, addressing concerns about privacy.

Cloak happens to be the latest app in this trend of users placing more value on privacy rather than publicizing their every move. While Facebook has a range of privacy settings, Twitter and Instagram offer only completely public or private options with no in-between.

With headlines about privacy concerns and the NSA in the news, people have become more aware about their privacy. I think it’s nice to see people backtrack and make a conscious decision to not publicize their every whereabout.

Social media is constantly changing, and it’s time we embrace a new era that finds a balance between socializing in real life and on the tiny device we clutch.

Opinion columnist Gemrick Curtom is a public relations junior and may be reached at [email protected]

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