One of the strangest things about social media is that not every person using it is a person.
I’m referring to “The Internet of Things” — the much ballyhooed phenomenon of everyday objects, enabled by technology, talking to one another — and to us — using private or public forums such as text messages, email, or social media.
It can be as simple as your plant tweeting that it needs to be watered, or as complex as the customized Geiger counters which were set up in Japan to provide real-time radiation reports to civilians following the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
You may have already noticed the first wave of “Internet of Things” updates in your social networks from people who are feeding data on their runs from their Nike+ monitor into Facebook or Twitter (see example.)
While it may be a long time before your new pair of jeans can send you a tweet from your booty assuring you that it’s looking fierce, it’s not ridiculous to assume that, in the very near future, those jeans could keep your posted on its whereabouts as they are being shipped to your doorstep.
“Affirmative, Dave. I read you. Also, your stomach is hungry.”
In addition to the updates we can get from our “things,” we are also increasingly able to collect real-time data from our bodies, too (as well as data from the people growing inside our bodies…yeah, I know, this is getting weird.)
For example, it’s now possible to…
- Have a tweet sent to you whenever your unborn baby kicks.
- Have your phone inform you when your posture is bad.
- Receive an update from an implanted medical device in your body when it is sensing you are in danger.
Hang on, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.
While all of this real-time data collection and reporting is interesting, helpful and sometimes, life changing, it also has the potential to transform the very nature of our social networks and, eventually, our lives, which opens a whole can of worms of questions, like…
- How much of this data will be shared privately and how much will be made public? Who will own all this data once it’s logged and/or published?
- How might the existence of this data be used to affect medical decisions like insurance coverage or human resource issues? Could our future see the equivalent of Klout scores for our physical health?
- Will there be new communication networks developed solely to handle and relay this type of data? How will we archive all this information? Who’s going to help us interpret all the data?
- Will our current networks segregate this kind of data in its feeds? For example, perhaps in addition to your news feed from Facebook friends and Pages feed from brands, maybe someday you will be able to access real-time reports from your things or your body in a designated “data feed.”
We’ll likely just have to cross these bridges as we come to them (an act that will undoubtedly be auto-updated to Facebook while it happens.)
In the meantime, appreciate the relative quiet in your social networks. With our increasingly chatty things and vocal bodies, our world is about to get a whole lot more noisy.