“Eh bump bump bump!” One of the guys in the group exclaimed as they all reached for their phones and started shaking it up and down vigorously.
It’s a ludicrous sight — A bunch of guys sitting at a corner at a birthday party, ‘bumping away’ with each other on the app, Zenly.
The sexual innuendo of both the term and action are unquestionable, but bumping with your current friends on Zenly is loosely similar to taking stories for your Instagram. It’s a way to “tag” each other and where the app will notify your mutual friends know that you are hanging out together.
What the heck is Zenly?
If you are wondering what the purpose of this app is, that was exactly us when we first knew about it.
Bought over by Snapchat’s parent company, Zenly is a social networking app that lets you track your friends location 24/7 and vice versa.
We turned down the invitation to join Zenly at the party that day — why would we want to be on an app that centers around people knowing our location 24/7? That’s just creepy. Imagine heading out at night, to meet a friend perhaps, only to get a text from someone asking us what we are doing going out at 10pm.
Although, this does not seem to be the concern of that group of guys and other friends who are on Zenly. For many of them (mostly in their teens or early twenties), Zenly is quickly becoming their go-to social app because “a lot of my friends are on it” and “it’s the hype now”.
Curiosity got the better of us and we decided to download the app to find out what the rage over this app is all about.
Is it that fun to stalk, or be stalked?
Even before we got to use the app, there was already a one-star review warning us about its potential dangers.
Reading that made us fear for our life, but for journalism sake, we clicked download.
For the first couple of minutes, we started bumping each other. In the middle of the office, we looked like three idiots, shaking our phones like our lives depended on it and laughing at how ridiculous this whole thing is.
Navigating our way through the app, we could already foresee getting bored of it quickly.
Besides its GPS tracking function, bumping, and letting you see your friends’ battery life, the other functions are nothing that your other messenger apps can’t do — chat and send photos.
There are also sets of emojis that you can use to send to your friends. It works a little like MSN Messenger’s Winks, where the emojis would up pop on your friends’ screen when it is send to them.
For the rest of the day and the next, we found ourselves spamming each other with these emojis, and being amused by it because of how stupidly entertaining it was.
We began to see why our friends are hooked on the app. With our short attention span and our desire to always stay connected, the features on Zenly acts as some sort of brainless, no-frills entertainment for us whenever we feel restless.
There’s just this fascination to want to see where our friends are hanging out at, and Zenly was sort of like a modern day Marauder’s Map for that. This novelty wore out quickly however. By the third day, we were on the app just to familiar ourselves with all its features.
Like us, one of our friends YJ, was initially reluctant to get the app because of safety concerns. She joined in the end because her friend kept bugging her to, and she continued using the app as it helps her stay connected with friends.
“I think [with the app] it’s just easier to see where your friends are at and whether it’s convenient to meet and all.”
For another friend, who has been on Zenly for a few months, it was to assure his loved one: “Wife use [Zenly] to spam me. And stalk me.”
He added: “I good boy”
Primarily a social app, the main function of Zenly — location-tracking — can be especially useful to keep our loved ones updated of our live location should for safety reasons. There is even a function that allows you to send a link to someone to allow them to view your location on a map on their browser for a few hours.
Admittedly, the app is not as freaky as we thought as there are safety features that allows us to decide how precisely each friend can track our location. Only friends you accept can see your location, and there are options for us to privatise our account and block users.
Though you have to set your location access to be always on for the app to work.
Younger Singaporeans May Not Know The Danger
Many of us are aware of the potential danger of revealing information that is so private and personal as our physical location, but the group this app appeals the most to may not be as shrewd when it comes to protecting their personal data.
Currently, Zenly seems to be especially popular amongst Singaporean teenagers, with at least two colleagues telling us how their 15 and 16-year-old siblings are on it, and so are a lot of their peers.
In just two days, one of us has gotten a handful of requests from acquaintances that we have not spoken to in years. And it is amusing how unbothered they are with sharing their ongoing location with people like me – an acquaintance who hardly know them – and 50 over friends on Zenly.
Let alone these 15 and 16-year-olds, who are most likely just beginning to enjoy more freedom at that age.
Their “Best Friends Only” tagline is a friendly reminder to use the app with caution, but it is easy to get caught up with adding more friends to unlock exclusive sets of emojis.
For some of our active Zenly friends, what started off as just two friends very quickly multiplied to four, eight, and so on. Over time, they tend to become more and more lenient with who they let in on their location, adding and accepting most friend requests that came their way — even if it means accepting requests from friends of their friends, or even strangers.
It’s worrying because Zenly automatically detects your home, workplace and school, taking account your everyday routine and then updating your friends about it with little icons attached to their names.
The scariest function of all is the ability to use the app to call your Zenly friends. Not just through the app, but via your actual mobile phone number. This means that the strangers or friends of friends you add to Zenly will be able to call you and get your mobile phone number.
Fun To ‘Stalk’ Friends, But Still Very Creepy
Most of us know the amount of data social networking sites like Facebook and Instagram have been collecting from us, but it’s important for us to remember that Zenly is a whole new ball game.
Our privacy and safety is at stake here, but a lot of the users who are hooked on the app may not realise the severity of it. Even within our social circles, there are young Singaporean users out there who are accepting friend requests from strangers, oblivious to the kind of dangers they have opened themselves up to.
Anyone who is your friend on the app can view your whole life schedule, your usual hangout place, where you stay, where you work, and also where you study. They will know if you’re out clubbing on a Wednesday night, and when you are on the way home at 3am.
We can only imagine the kind of people who would start using this app to stalk or prey on the young, or even friends that they are unhealthily obsessed with.
Knowing what our friends’ are up to or where they are hanging out at is gratifying. Annoying them with 100 over poop face emojis is fun. It’s a seemingly harmless social networking app if used with caution, but for us, it is still scary to know that the data of our physical locations and daily habits are being fed to the app and saved in their data storage, somewhere out there.What with so many cases of major data leaks happening in recent years.
Call it paranoia, but we, for sure, don’t want to head home after a late night only to have a strange stalker waiting for us at our void deck.
Besides, we value the beauty of being able to say we are ‘on the way’ when we are damn late for work, to meet our friends, or for any other work or social obligations really.
With that, we tapped on the Zenly app for the very last time, and clicked on the X to delete – not before we Googled and realised the importance of manually deleting our account (all our data) before deleting the app.
This is not a sponsored post. But if you want to annoy your friends on Zenly, you are more than welcome to try it.