First, good grief, has it come to this?
Kami Huyse (aka @kamichat) tweeted a link to an interesting article from today’s Washington Post. Titled “Bytes of Life,” the piece examines a new but hopefully very limited group of people who are dedicated to tracking every detail of their lives online. And when I say “every detail” I’m not exaggerating: these folks are collecting data about what food they eat, what the weather was at the time, allergy, pollen, and mold info, how they feel, where they are, how often they are having sex, and so on. In short, they are spending an incredible amount of time collecting data…on themselves.
These individuals say that they are using the data to detect otherwise-missed patterns and behaviors. By doing so, they say that they can use this information to improve their lives by addressing issues that surface in the data that might not have been detected before. Here’s a line from the piece:
“For example: Analysis of your stress levels, cross-referenced with other things, could tell you not only that you needed a vacation, but also when and where to go, says Messina.”
Does one really need this level of direction from data? How about making a list of where you’d like to go, TALK to your spouse or significant other about timing, and make plans to do it? This seems to me to be an excuse to outsource self-awareness. Couldn’t a lot of this information be detected by simply unplugging more, spending less time at the computer (entering data, natch), and being more mindful and aware?
Next, Twitter and the definition of relationship
I’ve recently been involved in some very interesting (and pleasant) back and forth about online relationships, Dunbar’s Number/Dunbar Corollary, and whether or not such relationships scale. (I just realized this is the all-Kami Two Thoughts on Tuesday, as it was her post on building quality relationships online, and follow up post that led to the discussions I’m referring to! Thanks Kami, for being a thought-starter as well as a thought-leader.)
I’ve been reluctant to use the word relationship in the context of online communications. I don’t think that the connections created through Twitter rise to the level of being called a relationship. For the most part, these are connections, and even if they have the whiff of relationships due to the personal information that is transferred. And, to a certain extent I think that is being validated as of late.
Politics has the ability to induce passionate debate, and that of course holds true online. But what has caught my attention on Twitter are questions like “do you unfollow people if you don’t agree with their politics?” I’ve also seen people go back and forth about political stuff on Twitter, and while the 140 character limit doesn’t allow for much depth, these tweets seem to verge on not just disagreeing, but being disagreeable. Because many of these connections are fragile and don’t have the weight of daily in-person interaction behind them, it’s easier to unfollow, write people off, etc. For most of us, this isn’t how we would react to people with whom we have relationships.
For companies engaging in this space, I think the proper context is to emphasize communicating with communities (Kami says this more elegantly than I in her Scaling Social Media Requires Community post), and instead of calling these interactions relationships, I would recommend that the business that wishes to interact in social media strive for developing a positive reputation within a community.