Every day it seems like another electronic, real time, internet based forum/community is born. Myspace, FaceBook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc., and the latest…Untappd. Untappd is much like Twitter, but less schizophrenic in nature. Instead of telling the world what you are doing at any given moment, you merely tell them (other Untappd members) what beer you are drinking and where you are drinking it at any given moment.
As this is a blog, and every blog is op ed in nature, I am just going to come out and say it: Untappd bugs me. Before I say why, let me assure you that if you are an untapd member, I think nothing less of you. I do no think your less intelligent than the average guy/gal. I do not think your sinister…I just don’t care if your drinking a Red Ale at John Doe’s pubs. But my irritation goes beyond having to muddle through even more pedantic FaceBook updates (most folk link Untappd with FaceBook) than I did before. There are two capital reasons that really are at the root of why I will never get an Untappd membership.
1) The internet is the most capacious revolution since the industrial revolution, and perhaps the most world impacting phenomenon to occur ever. For all it’s glory and wonder, it has it’s flaws. It creates bubbles of unchecked capitalism and–more detrimental–has altered human relationships. Now, I know that social networking sites like FaceBook and Twitter (both of which I utilize) can help friends who live miles apart stay in touch. It can create new relationships. I’ve met and hung out with several pals who were once just profiles and avatars on these sites. But one thing these sites have done, in my opinion, have limited the depth of relationships that friends once had, primarily by making the friendship an egocentric one. For the most part, the point of these sites is to tell the world what YOU are doing. FaceBook, Twitter, and now Untappd assumes that the user is the center of the relationship, and that everybody is just dying to know what your doing or what your drinking.
As a result, I…and several other sociologists…have noted that instead of having a several close friends, a person has many, many, more trivial relationships. I’m not saying that this is you, but it may be one of your friends. I’m not the only one who echos these concerns; check out this short clip: Life Inc.
2) The biggest irk is that I am afraid that Untappd trivializes what, as Sean Inman from beersearchparty like to say, “the end purpose of beer is.” That’s right, beer has a purpose, actually, many end purposes. Id say my favorite end purposes of beer is the conversation it enhances when drink it with like minded friends. Untappd rewards its members by drinking more and different beers with certain “badges.” I recently looked at some of the beers that were needed to attain to a certain badge level, and the beers were pretty obscure, rare, hard to come by beers (at least around here!). When I see, “so and so got the ‘crazy big IPA badge’ (fictional badge) today” it seems like that Untappd update relegated the “end purpose of beer” to mere bragging rites.
Is that what beer is about? To feel warm and fuzzy that you drank more and different beers than the next guy? Is that why you tell the everyone your having a given brew…to let them know that they are not having it? Now, there is a time an place for telling the world that your having a brew. I frequently mosey over to sites like The Brew Club, Mike Loves Beer, Simply Beer, The Drunken Polack and many more (who may very well have Untappd memberships), because they let me in on the experience they had while drinking the beer in their reviews. Let me tell you, experience is a very “end purpose of beer.” And if I’ve had the beer in review I can participate a bit in conversation.
Essentially, I feel like Untappd distracts from the human and beer experience. Like I stated earlier, I have nothing against Untappd users or even the creators of Untappd, we just may hold different opinions. Let’s face it…the world is full of contrasting opinions. Even when two folks disagree over a matter, after hearing the other side, while they may not come out altering their opinion, they at least may have altered their perception and grow a bit from learning the other side. So while we may disagree, just know that it is only out of my love for human relationships and beer, that I offer this opinion.
Now it’s your turn…let us know what you think in the comments below!
Interesting take from a sociologist. The question I have is whether the meaningful relationships these users have suffer due to this new avenue for sharing. If the Untappd, Twitter or Facebook relationship would not have occurred but for the social network then it is merely a bonus relationship that may or may not transfer to a meaningful relationship. These networks are fantastic for introverts that may find in-person social groups overwhelming.
I agree with your take on the purpose of Untappd as mere bragging rights. I use it more to catalog the beers I try because there is no way I’m going to remember them all. I post my Untappd to Twitter to see if others have opinions on the beer.
February 3rd, 2011 at 1:25 pm
I agree about the intoverts…I myself, while loudmouthed on the internet am more subdued in person.
I would posit that as more and more relationships–even online ones–require more and more work..the more work the less time that can be given to each relationship, thus depth suffers. Just a guess though.
I also think the badges are stupid. I just started using untappd a week or two ago. I do not cross-post to facebook, becvause for me facebook is more about reali life friends. I do cross-post to twitter as this is where I tend to discuss beer with other beer lovers. The badges seem dumb, but I like it as an easy way to record a quick note on what I’m drinking, as I’ve been lazy about this in the past and have a hard time remembering what I thougnt of certain brews. As a delve more into homebrew, and drink less commercial beer, this might become less of a concern.
Like everything online, I see untappd as a tool that can be useful when used properly. I would like to see the ability to add beers I’m not drinking “now” at some point, and consolidate some notes I have in mutiple places.
February 3rd, 2011 at 1:32 pm
Yeah, that’s a good point…use it as a tool properly and not let it get out of hand. I do have a twitter account, but I don’t let it dominate my time, checking my phone every 2 seconds to see if somebody responded to a tweet.
I hardly drink commercial brew these days, but not to make a statement…simply because I have little cash and can make a great homebrew. If I had a bigger budget, I would drink more commercial brew and give more homebrew away.
Big Tex is sipping a Water by God at Work.
February 3rd, 2011 at 1:33 pm
Just added this to my “wants” list on Beer Advocate.
Big Tex Reply:
February 4th, 2011 at 10:59 am
Thanks for keeping me in the rotation Nate.
I admit I do have an Untappd account and to be honest I really don’t know why. I have no particular reason. I guess I just look at it as something to do and pass time. I don’t take anything on it seriously. I don’t go on striving to get certain badges or what not. It is just some time consumer to me.
It doesn’t effect what I’m going to drink in order to obtain some virtual badge. Damn I can’t even pin that to my shirt! I still drink what I want to drink.
Yes there are some people that take it way to seriously, like 4square. I had someone trying to have me do something in particular on Untappd just to get a certain badge. I just laughed and said no.
Foursquare!!! I knew there was one that I was missing. 4square got out of control for a while, but seems like interest is waning.
Agree about the badges. I saw a Hoptopia badge and was taken aback…mighty industrious of that guy, but it just shows that folks are just striving for approval from normal human beings over what they drink.
February 3rd, 2011 at 2:34 pm
Yeah the Hoptopia badge was strange to see. And I’ve also seen him “check in” to beers that he had the day before saying he forgot to. Why do you have to go back and check in to something? You missed a beer or two, big deal. I went to a festival over the weekend and didn’t check in to any beers I had at the festival. I’m not going back now to check into them like I win a prize for doing so.
Yeah it is sort of sounding like I’m bashing the app but I just don’t take it seriously. It’s sort of fun just to do something but damn it’s not the end of the world if I miss a beer or don’t feel like getting a badge just for drinking IPAs.
Untapped…perhaps the name speaks to the nature of why it exists. Finding an unwritten about or unused idea doesn’t make it a good one.
[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Nate | THFB, Michael Reinhardt. Michael Reinhardt said: RT @THFBeer_Nate: Why I'm not a big fan of Untappd: http://wp.me/pjMtA-1vp [...]
Untapped is horrible. I don’t care where you are at this time, and I really could care less about knowing your drinking a Bud Light.
Geo Tagging in general is a bad idea. That just puts a huge “come rob me” sign up for anyone that knows how to follow you.
Just my 2 cents
I joined untappd a couple months ago. I understand how some look at social media as something that has the potential to separate people from reality and isolate them from real friends and real relationships. While yes I’m sure that there are those that do nothing to get out of the house and just sit there on their computer to try to collect virtual friends on facebook, twitter, untappd, etc. But I think you’re maybe missing the point on a few levels..
It’s a game, it’s fun, and from a business perspective there is much potential for breweries and restaurants to “tap” into something like untappd.
From a consumer, craft beer, homebrewer point of view:
If I’m going to go to a pub or other venue and have a beer, I’m mostly going to do that regardless of a social media app. But what if I go to a venue solely because I saw one of my virtual friends got to try a rare or new beer at that venue? In that case, the social media app actually causes me to leave the house and go to a pub or restaurant that I might otherwise not have gone to. I’m going to talk to people while I’m there, and most likely going to invite my neighbor or other friends as well. I may happen to also log into untappd while I’m there and let other people know what I’m drinking. This does a couple things; First, it’s fun. I like to see what others are drinking and where they are in the world. Second, if I happen to be drinking something special, those in my area can now know where to try it. Maybe I’ll see them there too.
And I have actually met people in person that I met first over social media. People I probably would have never met had it not been for social media.
From a business point of view:
I can imagine restaurants and craft brewers benefit from the word of mouth advertising they get from services such as untappd. If more people tweet or check in their brew from untappd and show where they are drinking it, and the restaurant or brewery gets more business because of that, then it’s likely they will continue to serve unique and hard to find brews. Win/Win
Also, I can imagine how valuable and useful the real-time and trending data would be to breweries. I could imagine a scenario where analytics software crunches the numbers and breweries could drill down on all types of beer trends in real time, and to use for forecasting. Also gives them good anecdotal evidence on what consumers are liking and not liking.
Anyway, there’s my slightly more than 2-cents. Don’t be so serious about it all. Use it or don’t. In the words of Charlie Papazian, “Relax, have a homebrew” Or have a craftbrew. And if it’s a good one, tweet about it or log it into utappd because I Want one too!
February 3rd, 2011 at 3:04 pm
Thanks for the long, well thought out comment, John…seriously.
I see validity in your points, but I do want to clarify…I fear that social media creates a sort of relational ADD syndrome, not that it isolates interpersonal connection in favor of electronic ones. Case in point, I have a friend who spends every night with another different twitter friend IN PERSON. We talked about how he has soooooo many relationships, but they are all shallow. It’s like friendship overload..that’s it. In moderation, as you suggest, Social media can be healthy…but we humans, especially American humans born to consume and overindulge are not so great at moderation.
As far as the game aspect of it, that would be a fundamental difference between you and I…at least at this point in life. A couple of years ago, I would have bought into it big time. I spent my hard earned dollars and time trying to seek out the most esoteric of beers, drink them, and review them so that I could have the first review in the blogosphere…I guess that was my “badge.” Beer had become a game, notoriety being the trophy. I let the game trump all the other more worthy aspects of beer. In moderation, yeah, it could be fun…but then you know how I feel about American moderation.
From the business aspect, hell yes…As a guy who wants to open a brewery, I know I’d love to see people out there enjoying my beers, even if it was in the form of a terse untapped update…but, I could care less if it made me tons of money…I just want to see people enjoy my brew.
Dinner time, and yes, I’m gonna relax and have a homebrewed maibock.
Please come back and add to the conversation any time, you helped balance out this one! Cheers!
John Karlis Reply:
February 3rd, 2011 at 3:41 pm
Totally agree with the shallow/ADD standpoint. But also I tend to find however that shallow and overindulgent people are that way regardless of social media. If you have those tendencies, you have them regardless of the medium and just manifest in different ways.
To clarify a couple things: From the game standpoint, I didn’t mean to say that I would ever go find a beer or attend a venue specifically so I could earn a badge, get points or gain some notoriety. No way – could care less about that. Just meant that if I’m doing something anyway, it’s a bit fun to log in and see what others are doing too. I rarely will go to great lengths to find a special brew either. If I happen to see someone is drinking something good nearby it does give me reason to stop by my local and try something new. Or if I’m traveling, I like to log into social media apps and find out what’s on tap in the city I’m in.
Anyway, good topic here and enjoy the site. Will be homebrew Saison for me tonight!
michael reinhardt Reply:
February 3rd, 2011 at 4:17 pm
“Totally agree with the shallow/ADD standpoint. But also I tend to find however that shallow and overindulgent people are that way regardless of social media. If you have those tendencies, you have them regardless of the medium and just manifest in different ways.”
Wouldn’t you agree that some types of communication (i.e. social media) combined with the anonymity that goes along with it are more conducive to encouraging that type of behavior. I personally would.
By the way, I would like to echo what Nate said. We are glad to have you stopping by the site and enjoy the feedback/pushback. I’m personally going to drink some of the mild I brewed and am actually brewing a bitter tonight. Your Cabernet Saison looked tasty…brewed one myself last year. By the looks of the beer, the cab is a pretty big part. Mine was a bit more of splash. Either way, it looked great and it does speak to the idea of variety of expression in beer.
Thanks guys for the mention. It’s always an honor.
Regarding Untappd, I’ve never even visited the site! I see other people’s updates and it just doesn’t concern me. Conversely, I’m almost positive nobody cares what I’m drinking @ any particular moment except perhaps the person I’m drinking WITH.
It reminded me of 4square (another site I never visited) that seems to update your whereabouts? Who cares if I’m @ a supermarket? (Except maybe the guy who wants to rob my house)
Anyway, I think all this can be good for many of the reasons in the comments, and I suppose any niche topic could be game for an Untappd service – its just not for me.
I see nothing wrong with Untappd, i think i might have even created an account when it began. But my reason for enjoying a few beers is summed up perfectly in your second point. It is great to read something like that.
Big Tex is fermenting an Oatmeal Stout by Big Tex at Home.
michael reinhardt Reply:
February 4th, 2011 at 12:25 pm
So glad that the beer is going well.
Big Tex Reply:
February 4th, 2011 at 2:11 pm
Just got a call from my wife… the two new ones are fermenting like mad… the airlocks are getting yeast in them. Crazy.
michael reinhardt Reply:
February 4th, 2011 at 3:31 pm
I both love and hate when that happens (yeast in airlock). I’m happy that it came through okay. Bring some when you come.
Big Tex Reply:
February 4th, 2011 at 6:47 pm
Yeah… I’ve got three kegs in my possession, so some of it will likely get bottled. Darn.
First off thanks for the mention, glad you enjoy reading my somewhat meandering beer write-ups.
As far as untappd goes, I enjoy it; it’s fun and light. I like seeing what other people are drinking. Granted it does become a rush of untappd updates on my twitter feed every night.
With that said, what does bother me are the people not drinking what they claim or the badge hounding (which i don’t get). Since there really inst a way of enforcing any of these practices, it does lessen the validity or relevance of the app.
Let me leave you with a question, You say it detracts from the human or social aspect, but do you think it helps, hurts, or is indifferent to the craftbeer movement?
Big Tex – Simply Beer is also sipping a dihydrogen monoxide by mother nature
Sorry to be late to this party.
Very thoughtful comments from all. Good to see viewpoints respectfully discussed. My issue isn’t with the social aspect of these sites. I can see the use and flat out fun of telling the world what craft brew you have in your hand.
But I just don’t have the time. I have people saying that my website needs to be updated, I don’t post on FaceBook enough and why am I not on Twitter. When do I shoehorn Untappd into this? and still get the dishes done and watch Fringe.
Thank goodness I don’t homebrew or I would need to be up 24 hours a day.
i’d like to know how one can quantify the idea that social networking increases the number of people with many trivial relationships as opposed to those with fewer, closer relationships. as i understand it, both types of people and relationships have existed…forever. some people like to surround themselves with empty followers while others like to surround themselves with 2-3 close friends. facebook didn’t create that, and in my opinion, does nothing to exacerbate the percentage of people who engage in this type of relationship. it does, however, encourage the type of person who is already like that-and since you can see it more easily every day when you look at your news feed, it only seems like this is becoming an increasing problem. interesting blog though. i just stumbled upon untappd (my friend and i are trying to start a brewery, and i was considering joining it).