I’ve long said that I’m a fan of social networks and media, of course, but I’ve also pointed out that most of it is artless and ingenuous in comparison with the sophistication each of us has when it comes to “being social.” So far, our technologies lack the instrumentation each of us employs when interacting in the simplest social situation. We have the benefit of hundreds of thousands of years of social evolution – not to mention millions of years of biological evolution. Yet as social creatures we flock to technologies that allow us to express that fundamental need, even if it fails to truly reflect our nature.
What’s heartening is how our culture has begun to ask interesting questions about what this all means – for our businesses, as marketers, as citizens, and as individuals. As Danah Boyd states in her opening keynote at SXSW: “ChatRoulette may be a fad, but the idea that publicity and privacy will get mashed up in new ways will not be.”
Tens of millions have flocked to ChatRoulette – and while it may well be a fad, the impulse which sent so many to “only connect” is not. Understanding who we are as private and public beings will be a fundamental component of what it means to be literate in a modern society. And marketers who make a practice of understanding this will succeed over those who do not.
I predict a punctuation mark in this conversation over the coming months, in the form of Facebook’s public data firehose. Expected at their F8 developer conference this June, the Facebook firehose will allow developers to create all sorts of unexpected applications and services which leverage Facebook status updates, wall posts, and more. Twitter should get the credit for pushing this open architecture, but Facebook’s implementation of it will be revelatory – and not necessarily in ways that might be positive. I predict one of the first applications created will be a site publishing Really Stupid Pictures You Probably Should Not Have Posted To Facebook, for example. Cue media frenzy and….well you get the picture.