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Debra Ollivier Headshot

Air Travel: Will The 'Friendly Skies' Get Too Friendly?

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The "friendly skies" have just gotten a whole lot friendlier. KLM has announced a new "Meet and Share" program in February that lets you choose who sits next to you on a flight by sharing your Facebook or Linkedin profiles prior to boarding. Cruising -- both in the Urban Dictionary and aviator definition of the term -- has never been more fun.

That, at least, is the idea in the sexed-up promo developed by Next Media Animation in Taiwan: A stewardess shows a young man the Facebook profiles of potential passengers before boarding. Guy with a beard? No thanks. Hot blond with lots of cleavage? Now you're talking. Later, the blond hottie comes out of the airplane restroom, followed by the delirious young man whose face is covered with her lipstick marks. Wow, talk about having a nice flight.

Riding the tail wind here, the International Business Traveler section of the International Business Times headlined "Meet and Share" as a "Matchmaker Service," citing a poll of 1,000 travelers conducted by a flight comparison web site. Forty-five percent of those polled said they've flirted during flights. A third said the encounter led to a land-based rendez-vous; 18 percent reported that those rendezvous became relations on terra firma.

Surely KLM had tamer ideas in mind. With "Meet and Share" you could sit next to someone in the same business and get cozy over mutual Power Point presentations, or swap stories with a seat mate who might share, say, a yen for collecting Swedish garden elves or black velvet Elvis paintings.

Call me a curmudgeon, but personally when I fly on a plane all that matters is that the person sitting next to me isn't a terrorist. Smelling nice is a plus. Leaving me alone is a must. The only exception to that rule is if the plane is starting to nose dive, in which case I might reach out and grab my seat mate's hand.

One of the great remaining joys of flying these days, considering how unpleasant it's become, is the wondrous beauty of lifting up through the clouds and watching -- feeling! -- the incredible immensity of sky above and earth below. The world slips away -- and with it, at least in the days before social networking -- so did many of our worldly cares. Short of taking a ride in a private space shuttle, airplane flight is the closest we ever get to seeing our planet's geography from stupendous heights. The first time I saw Greenland from 38,000 miles above the earth, I was literally enraptured by its magnificence and the expansiveness of its untouched glacial fields. The idea of swapping that experience for conversations with Facebook or Linkedin strangers -- people with whom I could just as easily connect with from the ground -- makes me want to put a few passengers in the tow-away loading zone.

As Bianca Bosker recently wrote on this site in "Debunking the Big Gang Theory: Why Facebook and Others Suffer From Being Big," everyone is suffering from "shareturation." Social networks have become bloated by Silicon Valley's obsession with huge profits and huge market shares. We wade our way through "a jumbled mess of updates that are part personal, part aspirational, part informative, part materialistic." In all the sprawl and galloping connectivity, sites are now "grappling with how to transition from 'massive' to 'meaningful.'" So, presumably, are people.

Here's to sitting back in the stratosphere and enjoying the moment -- alone.