2011: A Social Odyssey

This week's blog comes from Guest Blogger Carter Elkin-Paris. Carter is a Boston Buzz Builder who discusses niche social networking and the future of social media.

“We lived on farms, then we lived in cities, and now we're going to live on the Internet!”

If you breathe oxygen and have an Internet connection, odds are you’re on Facebook; it has claimed nearly half of America as users. Who doesn’t like being liked, reconnecting with long lost friends, or getting a good old-fashioned poking? As it moves closer to an IPO, so do sites like LinkedIn, Groupon, and China’s Facebook clone Renren. While social media is everywhere, and some claim it has already reached a point of saturation, it is still in its infancy. So what comes next? Sophistication and specificity.

The above quote comes from the Academy Award-winning Social Network, a film documenting the inception of the social behemoth’s founding at Harvard. While we all know the story of Zuckerberg and friends, another social network, also started at Harvard, looks to not just transcend Facebook’s mass appeal, but to appeal to the judge’s deciding the Nobel Prize. ResearchGate, an exclusive network for scientists, already has 800,000 members and is aiming towards the sky. It links scientists to other scientists to, well… get some science done.

If any group of people should be thought sharing, it’s the scientific community. They’ve been on a roll lately. Brigham and Women's Hospital just gave the U.S. its first human face transplant. Microsoft is using BING to create a fully functioning augmented reality. IBM created Watson, the Jeopardy-winning robot that is creeping eerily close to cognition. Watson is now turning its focus from frivolous to serious, leaving behind game show trivia to assist the medical world; a trend I expect social networks will be following.

If ResearchGate and its already vast community are any indication of the future, specified goal-driven networks will rise to prominence and Facebook will be the place everyone still goes to check in on all of their friend’s latest happenings. However, the folks at Facebook are not dumb. They know they need to evolve beyond friendship sharing; their new Credits system could easily surpass PayPal and Facebook could one day be a centralized online bank.

As technology does, it grows exponentially smarter and smaller. What happens when we can fit Watson in our pocket, or our brain, and he’s a thousand times smarter? Will we be able to connect to the web, and more importantly each other via a small chip in our brain? Could we actually connect to each other just by blinking in a certain sequence or simply thinking it? Maybe; let’s call it social science fiction, or maybe drop the science, just social fiction, it’s cleaner.

Share your thoughts in the comments!