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Are You Hopelessly Dependent on GPS?

Illustration for article titled Are You Hopelessly Dependent on GPS?

I once considered myself in possession of a pretty good natural compass. It was nice. But now I have Google Maps in my pocket, and have a hard time imagining how I'd function without it. Are you lost without GPS?


Outside's Tom Vanderbilt is grappling with the same directional crisis. An era in which we can instantly find ourselves in the world has, he argues (and I agree) has made us more clueless than ever as to where the hell we actually are. "I'm here" ceases to have any relation to the rest of the world—with your smartphone's GPS, you're a dropped pin, not a person on the planet. There's no need for any reference to a wider world. When I step out of the subway, whether here in New York or my hometown, my first instinct is to insta-locate myself, rather than gathering my bearings naturally. It's disjointed. The places are I go are check-ins, or mapped spots, or a glowing blue dot. The map, it turns out, is secondary. "I am seeing very precisely mapped trees but wonder what is happening to the forest," Vanderbilt laments.

Are you like the two of us? Has the ease of instant positioning made you helpless without it?


Photo by William Hook

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Platypus Man

I have an absolutely terrible sense of direction (while driving, though I'm oddly good while walking), but I also don't go very many places. I know how to get from home to work and from work to home. I know how to get to places you can see from that route and a few other straight-off roads. That's about it. If I want to get somewhere in particular beyond that, I'll probably turn on my phone's GPS and use that. If I want to find somewhere I haven't been, I use the GPS. And if I get lost, I'm comforted by the fact that my GPS is in my pocket already.

So no, I don't really use it that often, but I don't go out very much either. However, if going somewhere new, I probably won't feel comfortable chancing it. However, I was always like that — before a GPS, I'd either print out directions, try to memorize them beforehand, or just hope I didn't get lost (and get nervous and frustrated if I did).