Lesson #1: We Are Social.

I’ve been in New York for 3 days.  So far, Jay-Z’s wisdom has proved on point. Big buildings provoke inspiring thoughts and beats indeed.

Aside from its beauteous concrete jungle, New York City has overwhelmed my senses with people. They flood my conscience: fast talkers, knowledge dispensers, young dreamers, drunk loungers, jaded locals, brusque transit riders. The diversity never fails.

Since I’m a fan of good conversation, I’d like to make a few remarks about some thought-provoking chats I’ve had. Specifically, the “deep” ones, defined as those which when asked my reasons for being here, provoke more than a “looking for a job” stammer.  The real dialogue delves into exactly why I’m here, and that reason is purely selfish – to learn from New York’s greatest resource: its people.

My first substantial chat was with Jack Moore, a friend of a friend who is Director of Operations at 33Across, an online marketing startup based in New York.  I was immediately struck by Jack’s comprehensive knowledge of social marketing on the web. More importantly, his elaboration brilliantly commented on the economic and social impact of this social monitoring.  Moore thinks and speaks quickly so I was usually trailing a mile behind him, but what I got was this:

1. nothing we do on the web is private,

2. companies know a lot about us based on our online behavior, and

3. they will increasingly tailor specific advertisements to our individual screens thanks to the data we freely provide them each time we log onto a website.

That may sound scarily Orwellian but decry as we might, it’s the future and yes, it may be the utter destruction of our free society. Or maybe not. Haven’t we already begun to accept and perhaps even enjoy the vicarious nature of our existence? We can thank Facebook for spurring this paradigm shift long before the latest newsfeed and ticker changes.  After all, no one is forcing us to say where we are, how we’re feeling, or what music we’re listening to. We are the ones who voluntarily offer these extra tidbits of our lives, precisely because we’re social creatures. (David Brooks said so!) By sharing these sometimes trivial rather narcissistic elements of our lives, perhaps we feel like we are enjoying this thing called life with others, thereby elevating the significance of our own existence?

Vain or not, there is nothing wrong with going social. I’ve gone through my share of doubts about this whole social thing with bouts of Facebook breakup. But like that person you keep stupidly going back to, social media’s orbit will continue to align with our own.

Instead of belaboring how we are ruining our lives with all this “sharing”, we should focus our efforts on understanding how privacy is being redefined. In the future, even the strictest of controls won’t fully erase what we put online. The digital construction we create is a data mine for corporations.  That is final. Our response to this should not be outrage. Rather, we should accept that a new era of openness will foster collaboration and growth if we embrace our social nature. Sure, we may not have as much an element of individual mystery anymore, but aren’t we all just products of our interactions with each other anyway?

 One hand in the air for the big city

Street lights, big dreams, all lookin’ pretty

No place in the world that could compare

Put your lighters in the air

Everybody say “yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah”

————–

 We are social. We are all in this together.

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