Tapping the Social Keg

Sommbeer Senior Editor: John Fahrner @fahrn13

Social Media is a way of life now, so much so that I think that at birth every child is now accompanied with a smartphone pre-loaded with Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts.  Back in my day (#oldmanstatement) parents would warn me of the dangers of brain rot that us kids could earn by watching too much tv and playing too many hours of Zelda.  These concerns are still lingering around looking to warp the minds of our youth but Social Media sure seems to have carved out a new stake in the world of stealing attention away from brain deadening media sources.   At some point while adventuring through breweries and bars you’ve likely encountered the Social Media app Untappd, the online database and Social Media hub to share whatever beer you’re drinking wherever on the planet 24/7.  If you’re reading this post you more than likely have stumbled upon Untappd, you might even be a regular user of the app, admittedly I use it almost daily.  But does Untappd have a positive influence on the craft beer community?  There’s definitely legitimately good reasons to use this app, but it does still have some tendencies to diminish actual social activity when people are out attempting to have a real social interaction.  

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Let’s dwell on negativity for a minute, that’s simply more fun.  The main point of Untappd is to share your drinking experience with friends.  Honestly I’m not sold that I need to know what all my friends are drinking at all times.  Who cares or needs this information?  If someone finds a really rare and unique beer and wants to share that experience I certainly understand that, beer blogs provide a good outlet for such activity, but if David is drinking a Two Hearted on Thursday night I really don’t care.  Truthfully I could have guessed that any number of my friends are  drinking a Two Hearted on any given night, that happens about as often as friends getting a pizza or having a cup of coffee, not exactly earth shattering news.  Checking into every beer you drink also leads to a habitual need to check into every single thing you drink regardless of circumstances or surroundings.  I call this behavior Untappd Zombieism. If you’re at a new taproom with friends and before your beer even arrives to the table you’re already looking up your precious brew on Untappd to tell the world that you’re having a beer you might be an Untappd Zombie (Editor’s Note, pitch “You Might Be An Untappd Zombie” jokes to Jeff Foxworthy).  Brainlessly staring at your phone to see who “toasts” your drink of choice is not only obnoxious but also makes me question your entire value system in life.  

While we’re on the subject of bizarre values let’s talk about badges. Badges are Untappd’s way of “rewarding” you for using their app, thats it, nothing more.  They’re a way of telling the internet “I drink a bunch of beer!!” and I’ve been awarded a bunch of these stupid things.  I’ve actually watched people let the Untappd badges dictate what beer they order.  

Friend- “I’ll have a Leinenkugel Pumpkin Shandy!”

Me- “Seriously? Do you need a doctor because something is wrong with you ording that”

Friend- “Oh I’m just trying to get my “Gord to the Last Drop” Badge on Untappd”

Me- *confused silence as I go back to vintage rotting my brain with the tv at the bar*

I have actually had that conversation, more than once, hopefully they don’t start making root beer badges anytime soon.  I guess you could say badges are cute and all but just like the achievements on the X-Box I hope people see it for what it is, an in direct way to keep you hooked on their product under the misconception of an achievement that no one really cares about.

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By now you’re probably wondering why I still use this app, well it does have some redeeming qualities.  First, Untappd is an easy way to catalog beer’s that I’ve tried and allows me to rate them.  This is helpful for me because I often find myself looking at a beer and pondering if I have already tried it or if I liked it (this is not meant to sound sarcastic I really have this experience on a regular basis).  It is incredibly helpful to have a database of beer in my pocket that I can quickly use for reference anytime.  Yes I do realize that the apps for Ratebeer and Beer Advocate also offer the same function but I have found Untappd to be significantly more user friendly than those alternatives. The other positive to Untappd is the GPS search function that allows you to see what’s on tap in the local bars around you.  This function takes advantage of the Untappd Zombies in your local area and shows you what beers they have checked into at what locations.  This feature, which should be renamed “The Zombie Button”, is great if you want to plan your trip to the bar based off a tap list.  Many times that shouldn’t matter, if the bar has beer you really should be able to find a drinkable solution, but it is nice for when limited releases come out and you can track down that trophy beer without ever stepping foot in the bar.  These two features are the main reason that I keep this app on my phone and use it almost daily.  What I would really love to see is the GPS, or zombie button, enhanced to show what bottle shops in the area have in stock, this is a feature that’s already available on the Founder’s Brewing app, but obviously that only showcases Founders beer.  Expanding this feature could definitely aid in my beer shopping expeditions thus freeing up more time for old fashioned brain rot in front of the tv.  

Untappd really is not a bad app, it serves a purpose and can be a useful tool for any beer fanatic that has a some sort of need to track their beer venturing habit.  Much like pursuing an interest in beer itself the key is to keep in mind a balance.  A balance of social media and actual social activity.  Social media already has a grip on our culture, especially with younger generations. Let’s not turn the sanctuary of bars, breweries and taprooms from a bastion of social activity to a box full of zombies staring at a 5 inch screen while barely engaging in a conversation.  

Cheers!
John Fahrner
Twitter: @fahrn13

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John

John

Senior Editor at Sommbeer.com
Fan of Hockey, Football, and Mexican Food. Preferes beers in the style of Stout, Porter, IPA, and Red Ales.
Not a fan of Pumpkin beer or Sours
John