The Evolving Role of Social Media and Technology

This blog post, written by Greg Bortkiewicz, originally appeared on the Landis Communications Inc. (LCI) blog LCInsights on December 5, 2016.

I’ve always been a keen follower of social media trends, and in recent weeks I’ve been giving thought to the ever-changing role of social media in society. A few things steered my mind in this direction. I thought I’d share with you now and would love to hear your feedback.

At Home — Virtual Reality and Internet Culture

At a recent client event I was speaking with a company spokesperson about Christmas shopping. He has two sons and pretty much everything they wanted was electronic, especially gaming devices (Personally, I would love a PS4 for Christmas!). I mentioned that virtual reality will continue to grow in popularity, and it’s entirely conceivable that in the not-too-distant future a family at home in the evening will each be sat around the living room plugged into their own world.

He went on to talk about studies that have suggested younger generations are less empathetic because so many more interactions are online instead of face-to-face. To top it off, I was listening to a podcast on my way home that afternoon and the host and his guest were talking about how their young children were using Internet phrases such as ‘LOL’ in an entirely non-ironic way. They were talking about it jokingly but it did make me wonder if it’s acceptable for me to start uttering the phrase ‘kids these days’…

In Public — Snapchat Spectacles

Spectacles are the must-have fashion accessory this winter. They come with a built-in camera which films a 10-second Snap once you press the button, and can be wirelessly added to a user’s Snapchat Memories.

Snapchat has done a great job of making them exclusive; they are only available from robot vending machines that remain in a location for a day at a time. New locations are revealed 24 hours in advance. They cost $129 + tax, and are unsurprisingly available for a marked-up price online — the going rate on eBay is around $320 — $350.

It will be interested to see if Snapchat makes them more widely available and if they catch on. If so, perhaps instead of everyone walking around glued to their phones, we’ll have a new phenomenon. I can just imagine a BART carriage filled with people in Spectacles.

In Society — Social (Media) Class

I’m a huge fan of Black Mirror, the show that explores the dark side of the relationship between people and technology, and in the first episode of the recently-released third series they looked at just how important our social presence may become in everyday life.

We already know that most people only present their best selves online — taking the perfect picture, agonizing over how to word a status update and so on. I’ve also read articles where people admit that as soon as they have posted something, they will contact a bunch of their friends asking them to like it, and If they don’t quickly get to double figures in likes, they’ll delete the post.

Black Mirror took this further by introducing the idea of classes decided by social standing. Friends and strangers give each other a rating after every interaction; people with higher approval are afforded access to better and more convenient services. On the other end of the scale, those with a lower rating are shunned by many and can find it exceedingly difficult to improve their social standing. I won’t go into any more detail about the episode itself but it’s well worth a watch.

The great thing about Black Mirror is that many of the ideas don’t seem at all far-fetched, and this episode is a fine example. Last year there was huge concern over an app called ‘Peeple’, which allowed people to leave ratings for others based on personal and professional relationships. After much criticism a watered-down version was released in March this year to little fanfare.

Meanwhile, China is working on building a nationwide “social credit” database that will rank citizens based on their trustworthiness. Pilot programs are underway with the goal of having everyone in the system by 2020. Will this program fall flat or is it a scary glimpse into the future?

I’d love to hear your thoughts about how social media and technology have impacted your lives! Leave a comment below or tweet me @greg_borko.