Throw Back Thursday
Now that I’m in my 30’s, I find it entertaining to reflect on how far we have come as a society. Innovations I could only dream about have enhanced our productivity and made life so simple. It’s crazy to think that I first learned how to type using Jump Start Typing’s keyboard training center, trying to unlock the trophy room to rescue Coach Qwerty. If you are younger than 30, you might want to reference the video below.
Shocking, I know.
More recently, I came across an old email I had written in college. My young, collegiate self was trying to predict the future of mass communication for a class project.
“If you put together a person’s Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, you get a good idea of who they are. The lines of privacy are blurred with social media because you are the one putting the information out there. Where you’re from, where you go to school, where you’ve been on vacation, employment history, career goals, dream wedding, dream house, sense of humor, favorite movies, etc. It’s all out there for anyone to see.
We consider it “creeping” when we do this to someone we are unfamiliar with or don’t actually know. I’ve even done it with people who are going to interview me. 10 years from now, “creeping” will cease to exist; it will be folded into our interactions and become the norm. Employers will retire the, “tell me about yourself,” ice breaker because they already have a pretty good idea. When you meet someone in person for the first time, you don’t have to pretend as if you have no clue who they are; it will be normal for you have general, if not spot on, idea.”
Wow. 21-year-old me wasn’t too far off. Social media has taken off even more so in the last 10 years. It has almost changed too fast for us to notice; we have just adapted without hesitation. I started using contact lenses to take pictures rather than my iPhone, but it was never a conscious decision or choice that took a lot of thought; it just happened. Updating my Instagram and Facebook has become second nature because my watch syncs with my contact lenses, phone and tablet, allowing me to post pictures almost immediately. Editing pictures has become a breeze because Instagram already knows how I like things filtered and offers me suggested edits to choose from. Amazing, right? It blows my mind that there were ever any skeptics.
I remember UNC assigned Nicholas Carr’s, “The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains,” for summer reading after my freshman year. From the back cover’s synopsis alone, it was clear the author was not a fan of technology. Using research, Carr backed up his claim that the Internet, more specifically Google, was making us stupid and limiting our ability to stop and smell the roses. Our ability to think critically and reflect deeply was hindered by our need to consume information so quickly. We could no longer concentrate on an in-depth analysis when we could get the main idea from a quick skim of the first few paragraphs. Carr was right, I didn’t read the book; I merely read the online synopsis.
To some extent, Carr’s idea about this mental shift is correct; however, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s just different. If anything, the Internet has opened up more avenues for people to express their creative ideas. We are able to accomplish greater feats more efficiently because of the Internet. We are thinking critically and sharing our ideas with the word. Within this community of ideas, we are thinking and creating together.
We are more connected than ever before because of what we share on our social networks. We share more life events through videos on social media and can easily share our opinions with the world.Social media advancements have furthered our ability to connect with people. I can stay invested my friends’ lives when I don’t see them on a regular basis because social media helps connect me and facilitate interactions with people.In 2009, Interactions, published the article, “Social network sites and society: current trends and future possibilities,” by Michigan State University professors Nicole Ellison, Cliff Lampe and Charles Steinfield. They suggested that social media had a positive impact on our lives because it offers an “inexpensive ways to organize members, arrange meetings, spread information, and gauge opinion;” and that as it continues to advance, it will allow us a “greater capacity for groups to organize and participate in collective action, a hallmark of civil society.” Niche mobile applications have furthered this organization to increase or efficiency. Instagram, Vine and Twitter were not the only ones to break away from the Facebook model of everything goes. Facebook became a cluttered mess, trying to adopt every app and fold it into its business model. They took on more than they could handle. There are now app specifically for article sharing and for creating and sharing events. I predicted the calendar app; so, for those of you wondering, that’s how I became a billionaire by the ripe age of 26.
Pictured above: Me, after selling my idea to Apple.
We share so much personal information with our networks, that we break down communication barriers. As Ellison, Lampe and Steinfield said, “Social network sites allow us to digitally represent our connections with other users—meaning that we can use these sites to model our network of social relationships.” Introverted people are not big mysteries anymore; you know what they like and don’t like from their profiles. It’s also easier to meet people and develop relationships because you know how connected you are to people within your network.
Before I sold my calendar app to Apple, I employed about 15 people. I was more likely to hire someone whom I was connected with in some way. I also looked through potential employee’s social media profiles to get an idea of what they were like and what they do for fun. Honestly, social media presence was one of the biggest indicators of a candidate’s ability to perform well at my company. After all, my company created a form of social media, so they had better know how to use it.
There was a New York Times article I remember reading my sophomore year about how we were loosing our fundamental skills of connecting and therefore the essence of out humanity. Apparently this would negatively affect our health. Maybe this would be true if we were still using T9word, but clearly we have advanced tremendously since that was written.
FaceTime has stuck around and outcompeted Skype. I’m not talking about the blurry old version of FaceTime that always dropped calls because of a poor connection. Fiber optic cable improved all that. Google and Apple are still rivals in the battle to take over the world, but they work well together. With a strong wifi connection in 2015, you could make a FaceTime, Viber or WhatsApp call to any of your contacts. Now, in 2025, fiber optic cable has improved Internet speed to make calls clearer. The bonus: wifi is everywhere, so you don’t have to rely on service providers like Verizon and AT&T. Google and Apple provide that service for you. As long as I’m not driving or something, I use FaceTime to talk to my friends. People use FaceTime way more than they did when I was in college. It’s used in the business environment too. A client is less likely to get mad if they are talking to you face-to-face (or screen-to-screen). With a crystal clear image and spectacular audio, it’s almost like you are with them in person. By far, the best part about the latest version FaceTime is that the video can be projected on the wall and enlarged. No more holding your hand out like a crazy person.
Kids these days don’t know how good they have it. They don’t know what its like to load a web page or what a buffer time is. Everything is instantaneous. They will never have to experience the perils of their hard drive crashing the day before a paper is due. Everything is in the cloud.
Remember all those 90s kids throwbacks with the floppy disks, dial-up connections and Nintendo 64? Well, the 2010-kid throwbacks are the rainbow Apple curser, CDs, Candy Crush or any 2-D game.
Life’s pleasures of convenience did come at a price for the kids of 2015. They don’t have the privacy I once did. It’s great for me, considering I want to have kids of my own some day, but it will be awful for them. Of course, they wont know any different.
My cousin is a 16-year-old boy, and my aunt and uncle knows what he is doing, whom he is with, where they are and what they plan to do. They are not being crazy over protective parent; the information is on his social media pages. You think I’m kidding, but they literally know where he is at all times. GPS location technology has advanced tenfold in the last few years because of wearable technology.
Someone finally realized that wearing bulky gadgets on your head wasn’t going to take off with many people, and they found a way to make the technology smaller and more practical, for example, the contact lenses that replaced the Google glasses idea. Wearable technology, like contact lenses or a watch, contain a navigation system, therefore the device’s GPS can locate you. The technology is so thin, it can be placed on your child’s shirt button. Mine is located on the inside of the necklace I wear every day. Trackers are so common you can put them almost wherever you want. I like to put one on my suitcase when I travel so I’ll know where my bag is if the airline doesn’t.
As this point, almost everyone has accepted the GPS thing. Understandably, some people hesitated to adopt the change initially. But now, in 2035, it is uncommon not to have some sort of wearable device. Probably a result of the Adapt or Die campaign that was full of worst-case scenario scare tactics. When anyone can get ahold of another person’s information, you want to know where your loved ones are.We traded our privacy for our safety. It wasn’t a big adjustment because the technology is not invasive.
Thank goodness it has caught on, because GPS technology is a big reason why the advertising industry has managed to keep its head above water. Location-based technology is the best thing to happen to advertising and public relations. When print died off and everything went digital a couple years back, Ad agencies had to act fast.
About five years ago, stores started to display information, sales, decorations, etc. on large screens. Fortunately, the advertising industry was proactive and opportunistic. Stores are covered with screens projecting images tailored to the shoppers needs. First a store will use location-based technology and voice recognition software to assesses your consumer profile. Your profile consists of basic demographic information as well as your purchase history within the specific shopping center. Next, an algorithm assesses your profile to tailor to your needs. Then, the display screens within the store will change as you walk around, directing you to outfits you might like or items that might go well with something you purchased last week. Not only is this a time saver, but it has also helped spruce up everyone’s wardrobe.
With location based technology and access to people’s purchasing history, advertisers can target consumers more effectively and immediately. For example, I was at J. Crew last week and bought a great sundress. Soon after I made the purchase, I got a notification on my watch asking if I was looking for shoes to match, which I was, so it notified me that Banana Republic had a great pair of sandals that would match perfectly. Advertisers can interact with consumers on a more personal level, which enhances the consumer’s relationship with a specific brand.
What’s really helping brands these days is that they finally understand how to use social media. Companies have taken on a friendlier persona. They are no longer throwing information at us and hoping something sticks. They have tailored their information to each media platform and concentrated their efforts to make clever, entertaining posts. The hashtag is still staying strong and brand creativity has gone up. You have to be creative if you want to get people’s attention, but you have to create something meaningful if you want to keep it. Sex isn’t the only thing that sells anymore. People want their purchases to mean something more, so brands are tugging on the heart strings even more than they did during the 2015 Super Bowl. Meaningful doesn’t have to be sappy or depressing, it can be something really clever or funny. Brands cant half-a** it anymore and get by. People will chew them apart on social media if they miss the mark.
A lot has changed in the past ten years, and I’ll have to say it’s for the better. Our networks are continuing to expand, but we have gotten more comfortable within them. It’s not weird to message a friend of a friend that works at some company. It’s normal to mention something you saw on someone you’re just meeting’s Instagram. It’s not weird to follow someone’s profile after meeting them once or not at all. We are more open about our opinions and our willingness to share them via mass media, which facilitates and inspires debates, movements and change.
Privacy is nowhere near what it used to be. If you don’t want everyone to know something, you can’t post anything about it on social media because it will inevitably leak or come back to haunt you when you are applying for a job. Social media is probably the only reason I have been able to maintain some of my friendships. When you aren’t around people all the time, it’s hard to stay connected with them. Social media and FaceTime improvements have made it possible to stay connected and expand our networks.
Reflecting on how far society has come only excites me for the future. Both professionally and personally, it’s important to embrace change as it happens because you don’t want to suffer a generational gap. Adapting to change and new ideas creates an opportunity for so much possibility. In trying to predict the future, we are inspiring innovation. If you can dream it, work hard to see that you can make it happen — like my calendar app. So, cheers to another 10 years.