2010 October 28
by Dave

Gizmodo has a decent piece up about your continued social networking presence after your death. Many berieved individuals like leaving the social networking profile of the deceased up and functional as a means of maintaining their connection.

This got me thinking about the nature of social networking. Actually unpacking and examining my perceptions of social networking I found a fairly conventional definition. Facebook is a tool for communicating and connecting with friends and acquaintances. What people value about social networking is the ease of remaining connected to and interacting with a large number of people.

The whole dead people on facebook thing has pulled the curtain back for me a bit. It is not the ease of connection that people value. It is the illusion of connection. It is actually a relationship simulator. You are able to pretend to be friends with people that you don’t actually have the time or interest in really being friends with.

A real connection can be maintained with people using email and phone calls. It can even be enhanced by playing online games together. But that is a real connection and still takes time and effort. On facebook you can have your status update broadcast to a list of people and that feels very similar to actually telling people what you are doing. More importantly, when you get a status update you feel like someone has taken the effort to tell you what they are doing.

I need to walk all that back a bit and admit that social networking is a good tool for maintaining real friendships. Also I’m painting this a bit more black and white than reality in order to make a point.

The aforementioned point is that social networking’s killer app is allowing us to alter our perception of who our friends are. Who doesn’t like having more friends? My acquaintances are now my friends. Bonus.

This begs the question, what other unexpected parts of our lives are amenable to having our perceptions of them technologically altered?

Self image instantly comes to mind. Stuff has been sold on a promise of image enhancement that alters our self image rather than how others see us for time immemorial. There is scope for so much more than the traditional “If you own this you are cool.”  Authentic, subtle compliments make any service interaction more pleasant. Maybe I’d like the WordPress back end even more if it gave me positive queues when I spell a difficult word right rather than just lots of red lines under misspelled words.

Probably not but you get my drift. What else can be altered? Love, achievement, wealth, ability, fun.

The Nintendo Wii has done well pairing ease of use with the increased perception of activity. The ease of use angle alone would have made it a solid product. The slight increase in physical activity perceived as a significant increase in activity made it a blockbuster.

The next big thing will probably alter our perception of something that I haven’t thought of yet, but hopefully a sleep simulation is in the offing.

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