So, you’re scheduled to take a long flight on KLM but don’t want to spend the time reading a book or staring out the window with no one to talk to. KLM has a solution they think passengers will gravitate to: connect with others on your upcoming flight via social media and find a seatmate. That’s right, you can not only find other interesting people on the plane, you can have yourself seated next to them as well.
I can see a few problems with this right out of the gate, but perhaps I am just too introverted to get it. Sure, the program is designed so that anyone can move their seats (so if you move next to someone and they don’t like it they can move away) and you have to share all your information before you get to see what other people have shared, but still, all this potential seat hopping and sharing leaves me wondering if it’s worth all the trouble.
Virgin Airlines has had a similar in-flight social media system for years, but it has never caught on the way some might have hoped it would. It seems to me the KLM plan might be the wrong step forward for the advancement of social media on airlines. In fact, I think more people will be turned away by the prospect of being stalked by their fellow passengers than will come looking for it. It’s one thing to connect with people via social media and then have some choice about being stuck on an airplane with them for hours, and it’s another to be thrust together with them, or being forced to change seats to avoid them.
I realize the youth of today is growing up knowing nothing but a world which is connected via social media, but they are not the only generation walking around on the planet. Not only that, but as we have often seen with social media, too much of a good thing is just plain bad.
Only time will tell whether the KLM plan will catch on, but I have a feeling it will go the way of the chat room sooner rather than later. What do you think?
Currently being pilot tested on three of their international routes, it allows fliers to upload their Facebook or LinkedIn identities and select details from those profiles (interests, where they work, etc.) when choosing seats so that they can choose seatmates accordingly. Business travelers can look for networking opportunities. Parents can find one another and form a kid colony. Single types can try to find a soulmate seatmate. Bonus: You can Google and Facestalk your seatmates in advance to come up with talking points.
This may increasingly be our future: broadcasting who we are, what we like, and what we do, in the same way offline that we already do in an online context. The data is there waiting to be tapped. It’s just a matter of creating connections to make it available. When Facebook first started, it was replacing the “Face book” that most universities handed out to students their freshman year so they could see, familiarize, and, of course, rate the hotness of their companions for the next four years. As Facebook is utilized by other companies, such as airlines, we’re going to be like freshmen again, but researching our companions of two to six hours instead of our new university-assigned roommate. We’re both excited by that and creeped out by it, as reflected in the media reaction to KLM’s new feature, expertly curated by Megan Garber at the Atlantic. The big question is: are we excited enough by it to actually opt in?