Let’s end loneliness while traveling

Our partner Flypside wants to help travelers find friends on the road. Read on to see how! 

By Andrew McGill

When you’re wanting to socialize, being alone sucks. But trying to find friends in advance who will be where you are, when you are — and who want to do the same thing as you — can be a near impossible challenge. And if you give up on that challenge and just head out hoping to make new friends when you get wherever it is you’re going, well, that can be uncomfortable and sometimes painful.

Why is this? Why has our technology-abundant society not come up with a cure for the loneliness we experience with our social struggles? We put a man on the moon in 1969. The World Wide Web was emerging by 1990. Today, SpaceX is turning rocketships into yo-yos and there’s an invisible information “cloud” everywhere around us. Technology and the people behind it are awesome. Still, connecting with the right people at the right time seems to have us perplexed.

By now I’m sure you’re saying, “yes, but now there’s Tinder and other apps out there designed to cure what ails us in this regard.” However, Tinder only works for a date or “Netflix and chill.” Dating alone isn’t what I’m talking about here. I am focused on something much bigger.

Consider this: Say I want to find someone to go surfing with tomorrow morning? I text my friends, but they’re hungover, lazy or high (yes, I live in California). Or maybe they’re — gasp! — working. Does Tinder solve this? Clearly no, as finding a male surf partner is not in my Tinder future.

Or how about this: I want to visit Australia next month to have a new kind of surfing experience. I ask my friends but none are free to go with me, so I debate going alone. I hesitate, thinking about the chances that I’ll end up lonely and far from home. Maybe I better pass (despite the likelihood that if I stay home I’ll just end up hungover, lazy, or, dammit, working myself).

This all seems like a job for social media, right? Get online, get posting and get it done. Find who I need to find and make my social future what I want it to be. Indeed, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the rest are all ready to accommodate my timeline post saying, “Hey! I’m heading to Aussie to surf next month! Who wants to come?!” But here’s the rub: these timelines face backward. They disappear behind us so my friends have to be online when I post (and the algorithms have to want the right friend to see my post that day) or they may not not even see my plea as it fades into history. Moreover, if you’re not my “friend” you won’t even have a chance of seeing my “invite.” If you’re a friend of a friend or a stranger who’s wicked into surfing (or perhaps even someone that lives in the Aussie town I’m thinking of going to) there’s absolutely no chance you’ll see me.

The solution, if you think about it, would be fairly simple. Just flip the timeline over so that it extends into the future and post a few basic bits of information:

Time – when I want to do something.
Location – where I want to do it.
Identity – who I am.
Intent – what I want or plan to do while there.

In a way, this is what a calendar does — but in fairly static way. What if it were to become a tool where people could share this basic information in a social media environment? This way we could project ourselves — along with our interests and intentions — into a specific, future time and location. By displaying such a post to “relevant others” (friends, friends of friends, people from our same school or industry, or just who have similar interests) we could start meeting the right people who will be where we are at the same time as us.

In my aforementioned cases, I would be able to find and meet up with other surfers at home or abroad before I even walked out my door. Same would go for anywhere I plan to go — a business conference, a music festival, or even a particular hostel or hotel.

The use cases of this simple concept are endless. And here’s the good news: the solution I’m talking about now exists. It’s called Flypside, a smartphone application that faces your timeline forward so you can start meeting the right people and find the right events before you get where you’re going. Using #hashtags to communicate your intentions and selecting those hashtags to find similar people, you connect, chat and, if you wish, meet up with them to do whatever it is you love to do. It’s easy. It’s fun. It’s beautiful, man. Your calendar is now a complete social tool.

Now that we have rockets landing safely back on earth and the cloud knows more about me than my mother, isn’t it about time that we take on being alone when we we don’t want to be?

Leave a Reply