Social Media – How Far is Too Far?

Social Media – How Far is Too Far?
Jamie Lee Wallace - Mon Dec 07, 2009 @ 06:14AM
Comments: 10

Savvy friend Mark Schaefer published an intriguing post this morning about the future of social media. His predictions range from the comparatively mundane concept of GPS-enabled couponing to the Matrix-like idea of physically implanted social media tools to the frightening idea of micro politics.

Though I have no doubt that many, if not all, of Mark's technological developments will eventually become reality, I wonder about how quickly they will be integrated into the daily life of the average person. I also wonder when someone - or some group - will stand up and say, 'Enough is enough!'

Are we that far away from s Mark's "Think-a-Tweet?" Maybe not, but do we really want to go there?

The conversations that we have within professional communities in the online marketing and social media space do not represent the awareness or opinions of the public at large. We are a fairly small group of early adopters who engage with these platforms and "toys" because we are communication geeks. Based on their behavior, my marketing friends and non-marketing friends may as well be two entirely different species. One group is constantly twittering, facebooking, and publishing thousands of words of content per minute. The other group checks email a few times a week, doesn't have a smart phone, and has never RSS'd anything in their lives.

Mark talked about a "digital divide" that will form between technically adept countries and those that are unable - for financial or political reasons - to take part in the digital revolution. I think that we also have to consider the "domestic digital divide" that will exist between the citizens of any technically advanced country. This divide may only be transitional (with each generation bringing us closer to a universal acceptance of the type of digital ubiquity Mark speaks of), but it will exist. Businesses will have to either choose a demographic to pursue - the plugged in or the unplugged - or; they will have to walk the edge of the knife, and try to cater to both audiences simultaneously.

As I commented on {grow}, I predict that there will be a backlash effect to these technological developments. Even as masses of people willingly opt into more intrusively integrated programs, there will be others who decide that they don't want their every move and preference tracked and recorded. I am very curious about what event will trigger a public outcry against brands and companies further insinuating themselves into our personal lives. The points of data collection are already all around us: debit and credit card purchases, loyalty programs at grocery and drug stores, online activity, TV-viewing behavior, brand-specific purchasing history, and so on.

Programs and tools like these seem fairly benign; but, put them all together in aggregate and add in some of Mark's predicted "advancements," and you start to paint a very Orwellian picture. Though people may go along with the prying and manipulation of brands for a while - trading personal information for conveniences like pre-populated checkouts and customer-specific coupons - there will come a point when those pathetic gestures are not enough to warrant the ever-deeper commitment between consumer and commerce. When this tipping point arrives, the companies that survive the maelstrom of public opinion will be the ones who have tempered their approach with genuine respect and the ones that are willing and able to provide true value for the privilege of access to personal information.

The evolution of how humans use social media and how social media uses humans will be very interesting to watch. For better or worse, it will - like most evolutions - be best viewed in retrospect.


Comments: 10


1. Mark W Schaefer  |  my website   |   Mon Dec 07, 2009 @ 06:40AM

Thanks for extending and fleshing out the conversatoin, Jamie.

I think the point that strikes me is the "event" that might trigger a backlash. I believe you're exactly right. It's usually a crime, mistake or tragedy that compels people to make laws to address chronic problems. Frightening to think what it might be.

Thanks do much for the taking the conversation a step further!


2. Jamie Wallace  |  my website   |   Mon Dec 07, 2009 @ 08:49AM

@Mark - You're probably right re: the nature of the trigger event. It will be interesting to see how far things get before we reach that point, and then how we regroup in the context of the aftermath.
Thanks for stopping by & for inspiring this train of thought!

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