The Third Industrial Revolution: What Should Social Media Become?
Over the last three centuries manufacturing has changed radically. We went from small cotton farms to large textile factories, from specialized shops to huge assembly lines. Just in the past several decades we have seen the emergence of things like 3D printing and synthetic biology that will allow the creation of things in unprecedented ways and change the way we live and work forever.
When a larger account of this story is told we will find ourselves at the beginning of the timeline. It will be noted as a period of great flux, an ever changing world filled with visionaries that established new industries, and the people that were experimenting with their creations.
A recent article in The Economist describes this Third Industrial Revolution as a time when manufacturing is going digital. It includes web-based services as having a large impact, but surprisingly it mentions nothing specific about social media. You'll find the same in many other reputable publications that talk about future developments and mention more about self-driving cars, living buildings, renewable energies, and nanotechnology than the future of social media.
Few people today would ever call their car an automobile but that's what people called it when the first versions were coming out. The same applies to airplanes which were simply know as flying machines when the Wright Brothers first had a go at flying. Both of those inventions have now become many things to many people and the same will happen to social media.
It will not dissapear but its connotation will change and rightfully so. Social media is currently scratching the surface when you think about all the capabilities that these amazing tools should one day have. Just think how business and government will change when their services become integrated into social networks, how the world around us will look when social media is just a conglomeration of different services available to us wherever we go, and how our relationships will be augmented by the information people share in the real world, as we walk around our cities. This is already happening, but not always in the best of ways.
Social media should become an integration of everyday living and working processes. When it reaches a critical mass we will simply stop thinking of it as a concept or industry that stands on its own. Instead it will be something we expect in all our appliances, homes, cars, schools, neigborhoods, shops, workplaces, governments, cities, streets, and everything inbetween. Every one of these things and places will create a new kind of social media adapted to its specific use and the will of its people, while still being integrated enough so you can jump comfortably from place to place. It may all look very similar, to make access simple, but should be constructed in a way that really answers the issues that matter most to its users. One type of social network won't do and we should stray away from giving that much power to any one company.
I'm not simply advocating more technology or more access to different social networks. I believe that social media and social networks will serve their purpose best when more people are actually interacting and collaborating in the real world. When its power helps us save time and discover new things so that we can spend what time we have left in more valuable endeavors alongside more valuable relationships. Social media should beg us to go and check what's around the corner and entice us to meet people who share our interests, yet lie outside of our immediate circles or groups. It should make our working life better and thus, life itself better.
Call me idealistic. It's the aiming for perfection that makes things great, not the hitting of a target.