How Telegram’s Location-Based Chats could revolutionalize the way we communicate

Social distancing to curb the spread of Coronavirus Covid-19 is the new byword. In these trying times, more people are finding themselves cloistered away in their homes probably for the first time ever. Due to school and the 8 to 5 grind, most of us haven’t really interacted with our neighbours other than the cursory hello on our way out.

Unfortunately, that just won’t do. Social distancing doesn’t actually mean cutting off human interaction altogether. We still need to know whatever is going on around us to be able to react accordingly to the coronavirus pandemic. We need people. And the closer to us, the better.

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Telegram’s Location-based People Nearby/ Groups Nearby

On the plus side, apps like Telegram already have features in place to help. Telegram’s Location-based ‘People Nearby’ uses GPS to connect people in the same locality without them sharing sensitive information like phone numbers.

Telegram’s intended purpose might slightly differ from what people actually use People Nearby for, although that’s the nature of technology. You never know how the end-user will interface with it when you’re putting it out there.

Ever scrambled for business cards at a beach party? Or dropped somebody’s phone into the pool in a “let me type in my number for you” moment? Worry no more.

Telegram

On that point, Telegram intended People Nearby to sort of work like a seamless business card sharing platform when you’re networking at say a party. In truth, think more on the lines of dating platform/social network or marketing.

In the same vein, Groups Nearby lets you join relevant groups within your vicinity. These location-based communities have the potential to kickstart meaningful community policing drives which can keep information channels flowing as concerns issues in the neighbourhood. More to that, you get to know your neighbours so that next time you meet on the street, you won’t be strangers, perhaps.

Related: How to let your friends know exactly where you are using Whatsapp, Telegram and Google Maps

On a cautionary note, unsavoury characters can bring down Groups Nearby through unsolicited adverts, mean spirited vibes and all that. The admins must state the end goal of the group and institute some ground rules from the get-go. If the purpose is to monitor individuals showing Covid-19 symptoms and sharing vital information from the Ministry of Health, let it be just that.

How to use ‘People Nearby’ on Telegram

>>Open Contacts (via the hamburger menu)
>> Add People Nearby to quickly exchange contact info with Telegram users in the same location (Other people should also have this section open.)
>>Scroll down to Groups Nearby to join or create a location-based group

You can choose to make yourself visible so that other People Nearby Users can see you, or not. And unless somebody has your number already, they won’t be able to see it when you contact them/join groups, unless you set it that way in settings.

People Nearby reminds me of a similar feature in WeChat where you play Russian Roulette with nearby strangers by simply shaking your phone. You never know who you’ll meet, but given that that person is also on the lookout gives it a certain level of mutual interest. After all, that other person is also shaking at the same time, same as you. If you know, you know.