June 7, 2011

Personal Gain

The origin and evolution of social networking has had many inroads, message boards were the earliest and most primitive form that roamed this new chaotic landscape of the Internet.

Ideas were being shared and distributed across small networks of early adopters, subjects mainly consisting of the new media itself. As the platform evolved networks like AOL fostered a new level of social sharing in the form of instant messaging and chat rooms dedicated to almost every topic known to man.

Websites were still very primitive and typically communicated in one direction. Early websites were a shallow bucket of information that was closed to comments and conversation.

Without the ubiquity and the transparency of two way communication brands and content creators were reluctant to open up their sites to public conversation.

Blogging was an evolutionary shift that blew the doors open to public sharing as we know it today.

Bloggers tend to be highly opinionated, precisely focused and generally catering to a particular niche of audience that cares to read and comment on a particular subject of interest. Blog commenting forced a certain level of transparency so that the conversations would be fair and controlled.

Social Media grew out of the womb of this kind of public sharing, our social media profiles are now deep enough to verify our identities and allow us to share our thoughts and essentially micro-blog everything that goes on in our lives. This transparency is a form of social currency that give strength to our voices.

Social networks encourage and enable us to record every second of our lives and in many cases it is the recording and sharing of our lives that helps dictate many of the decisions we make throughout the day.

Where to go for lunch may be based on a Foursquare check-in made by a friend, a business deal may have evolved from a simple Twitter exchange, a relationship could hinge on who may have poked you on Facebook today or what your official relationship status is. Political views and status comments now quantify our social positioning and how the world views us as individuals.

But I ask myself, how has this really improved our lives?

How has this contributed to our advancement as human beings?

How do we benefit from being more social than ever before?

I try to weigh the pros and cons of every permutation of sharing across all kinds of topical social networks and I still wonder where the personal benefit is gained.

There are metrics that weigh sentiment and influence, popularity and frequency that have obvious benefits to brands that glean deep insight into the markets they service but where are the personal analytics that give social media users the metrics for success or failure in our own personal lives?

How can we gain deep analytical insight into improving ourselves?

How can we take a step back and click a button and see how we can better our own lives through the analysis of our social media activity?

I'm sure anthropologists and psychoanalysts could have a field day with this. Examining profiles and offering advice and insight into a persons behavior just by reading a log of an individuals social media stream over the course of a few days, weeks or years.

Imagine your therapist asking to see your past years Twitter posts to better understand your issues, imagine if there were analytical tools that gave you the power to read between the lines and help you figure out who you are and where you should be focusing your efforts in life?

This is a gaping void in the world of social media and as more and more people realize that this information can be used for the betterment of their own lives we will see more and more money being poured into services and tools dedicated to this purpose.

What better way to use the information we share every second of the day than to help us become better people?

So I throw out this thought and hope that we collectively realize the potential of the billions of bits of personal information we share with the world every day.