KLM's New Social Media-Based Seating Is Awesome (and Also, Awful)

By Megan Garber

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The good news: Social media can connect us in ways that were never before possible. The bad news: Social media can connect us in ways that were never before possible. Facebook and its fellow networks always offer trade-offs -- between privacy and publicness, between the comforts of anonymity and the responsibilities of recognition. Which means that pretty much every time a major innovation in social media comes along, we, the users, end up asking ourselves: Really? How great, actually, is this shiny new thing?  

With that in mind, I love the awesomely/tellingly conflicted press reactions to today's news that KLM has launched Meet & Seat, the airline's flight-based social media program. Using the service, you can see the Facebook and LinkedIn profiles of your fellow flight passengers ... and then use that information to select your seat.

On the one hand, the program is simply another great way to connect with other people -- the premise of social media brought, basically, to the social space of the skies:

With Meet & Seat, KLM integrates social media with air travel (KLM)

Travelers Can Select Seatmates (The Daily Beast)

KLM customers can use Facebook data to pick seats (The Boston Globe)

On the other hand, Meet & Seat could help us to disconnect from each other, indulging the airborne misanthropy that lurks within all of us: 

KLM offers way to avoid awkward in-flight chats (Washington Post)

Or it could simply help us to be more selective about the people we socialize with on our flights:

Use Facebook to Find the Least Worst Plane Seatmate (Vanity Fair)

Selecting a Seatmate to Make Skies Friendlier (New York Times)

But it could also eradicate the serendipity of in-flight romances and social connections: 

Will Social Seating Selection Kill the Airplane Meet-Cute? (The Atlantic Wire)

And it could bring travelers back to the horrors of high school: 

Airline Using Facebook To Turn Jet Cabin Into High School Cafeteria (The Consumerist)

And it could offer yet another way to bring creepiness to the experience of air travel: 

KLM Introduces A New Way To Be Creepy On An Airplane (Business Insider)

So: A service that's social, but also anti-social, and that's friendly, but also snobby, and that's practical, but also creepy. Seems about right.


Image: Shutterstock/Jordan Tan.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/02/klms-new-social-media-based-seating-is-awesome-and-also-awful/253584/