Judge me by what I buy! Stereotyping on Shoeboxed.com

The Internet start-up Shoeboxed.com offers a strange mix of purchase and receipt capture and social networking.

As I have spent the past few years analyzing the differences between the Boomers and Gen X, a yawning chasm has developed between Gen X and the teens and twentysomethings behind us. Years from now I still think we'll be mulling over the cultural divide between people who came of age using MySpace and Facebook, and those who didn't.

While we geezers (aka parents in their thirties and forties) mull over the technological and privacy implications of social networking, the generation behind us is adopting it as a given, and pushing the frontiers of sharing.

Case in point: a start-up called Shoeboxed was launched last July by a group of Duke University undergrads and recent grads. At first glance, I could wrap my mind around Shoeboxed's main concept. The service allows you to input all your receipts in order to keep track of them in one place. Got it.

But then they added a strange social-networking spin. Users are encouraged to "flaunt" their purchases by sharing them publicly. And then other users are encouraged to "let out your inner Mean Girl and go nuts with our stereotyping feature. Using the mouse is almost as easy as real-life stereotyping!"

Screenshot of Shoebox.com's stereotypes

Because we all know that what the world needs is more stereotyping! The Shoeboxed labels include "ghetto fabulous, attention whore, trust fund baby, teenage mother, playa, playa-hater, white trash, techy geek dork"....you get the idea. The prominent butt shot of the "ghetto fabulous" icon stands out as being particularly gratuitous.

I guess this illustrates where the expression "sophomoric humor" comes from. But the inherent idiocy of this kind of networking (which is significant in itself) is accompanied by another obvious downside. If I am someone looking to rob a dorm room, I can now seek out the person who bought $144.99 shoes, an iPhone, or a new Xbox. And avoid the guy who just bought a shotgun. You can theoretically e-mail other users to initiate conversation with them, though I was unable to get this feature to work.

Whether or not Shoeboxed ends up being the next flash-in-the-pan start-up, what really interested me was seeing social networking layered on top of a service I would have assumed people would want to keep private.

 

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