Musings: Pokémon Go is better than Facebook

 Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images Entertainment / Getty Images

I am 38 years old and I was like you.

I was pretty sure this whole Pokémon Go thing was a silly little fad that was on the verge of annoying and a bit childish. And you know where I continue to see people who think it’s annoying? Social media. The memes posted on sites like Facebook, although amusing, always seem to reflect distain. One meme even said something along the lines of having too much to do and not being 10 years old as to why they aren't bothering to play this game. 

The irony is that Generation X, not just Millennials, and even Baby Boomers utilize Facebook and fairly often — a place where many once said was “just for kids.” And by the way, teens are leaving the platform in droves. People also used to say Facebook was just a fad but it outlasted the definition. Now you can even sell that Graco play swing you don’t need anymore or you can join groups that are likeminded with your ideals or share your same experiences (one of the few real gems). It is a playground of photos, witticism, rants, complaints, nostalgia, time waste and yes, business. 

What I discovered after my cousin brought me into the Pokémon fold recently  is that the app encourages curiosity and exploration.  You may actually meet new people FACE TO FACE! (*see mind blown) Yes, you can find a flock of Pokémon Go users that are walking like zombies looking at their phones. How different is that tethering than your mobile device to constantly taking photos of the food you are eating, checking your social media accounts while walking to the bus stop or riding shotgun on a road trip? The difference is that you are very likely to meet new people who are sharing the experience of catching these little buggers and checking into PokéStops to gather more goodies for your trainer’s backpack. The day my cousin showed me how to play the game, we happened to have ended up at the shop of an acquaintance, a place I hadn’t seen yet!

The other bonus is that the app encourages people to get out of their homes, away from their usual locations and off the couch. Why do we need an app for that? Because people are hooked to their cell phones, as disheartening as that may seem sometimes.  If that is the case already, why not get some fresh air, exercise and possibly find some odd little art piece or statue in a restaurant, retailer or park that serves as a PokéStop? You have the potential to discover things that you wouldn’t have seen before because of being in your usual routine and also get a few history lessons about significant spots in your community (many PokéStops are historical locations).  To me, that really beats out falling down the rabbit hole of your Facebook newsfeed only to find that you feel the need to hide everyone who rants about politics or religion. There are no politics in Pokémon other than what team you are on, which, by the way, Team Instinct (yellow) seems to be a real underdog so there is quite a bit of teasing. I always root for the underdog.

Yesterday I took my bonus kiddo with me while I ran errands. We bonded over Pokémon, even though that is not the only thing we talk about. While I drove, she captured Pokémon and checked into PokéStops. (By the way, like texting, it’s obviously NOT a great idea to play this game while driving! I can’t believe that has to be mentioned but I digress.) Anyway, I had a little time to pull over in our drive to what they call a Gym and this is where you battle other Pokémon characters, but you aren’t actually pumping any iron. I don’t claim to be a wiz at this game, and I never followed Pokémon when it first hit the masses in the 90s. I lost poorly at this so-called gym but we had a good laugh together over it.

I also discovered the benefit of running a business and working with marketing ideas related to this game. There are a number of ways to draw people to your location, even if you aren’t a PokéStop, which I’m looking into now. Currently it seems a little elusive to request this but I’m giving it a shot. Small businesses are finding an increase in profit if they have the seemingly golden ticket of being a designated PokéStop.

“When you play the game, you can see PokéStops on the map from some distance away. However, for the low cost of about $2 an hour, players can purchase lure modules to install in a stop. These modules last for 30 minutes at a time and turn the stop into a beacon. This beacon attracts both players and Pokémon to the area, as well as making it light up on the map.” ~ venturebeat.com

I’m not going to play naïve; there are a number of reasons NOT to play this game, as with anything. But here are a few reasons that don’t hold enough water for me — at least not at this time:

1.     “Third-party sites are just using this to track you!”

- Ok. That may be true but do you have Facebook on your phone? Yes? Well try talking about something obscure around it, even with the app closed. Go back and see if you see an ad for what you just talked about.  Do you play games or open article links on your phone? Well, welcome to cookies. Do you turn on location services?

2.     “This is just a ploy for the government to spy on us!”

-  Do you think they don’t already? Ha! I kid. Kinda…

3.     “This is dangerous for kids!”

- As with anything, kids will find ways to do things you may not know they are doing. I am so not for social media for kids younger than 14 (I've softened from 15/16). But for one, it's not quite social media. However, as parents, it’s up to us to give proper guidance, best practices in everything and set boundaries and understanding. Better yet, encourage most of their time playing Pokémon Go to family outings and let them know it’s NOT ok to wander down a dark ally for a stinkin’ Pikachu!

I realize this app isn’t for everyone. There are plenty of people content with NOT having smart phones and NOT participating in “fads.” When I think about all the "fads" of my younger days, I actually think on them fondly, with a sly grin and dream sequence music playing over my head. Zelda, stonewashed jeans, stretchy chokers, rap music, Vans, Jared Leto…Wait a minute!