Whether you’re active on Facebook or Twitter, or use your iPhone to track news and traffic, social media is taking center stage in the way we interact as a society. Some of the constant communication can be stressful, but it’s clear the two-way flow of information is democratizing news,increasing patient access to health information, and literally bringing the world to our fingertips.
If the thought of even more two-way communication makes your head hurt, stop reading here.
If these next three trends typify where we’re going, it’s quite likely that today’s social media will seem quaint in a few short years.
- Geo-locating – Foursquare and its ilk, including Facebook Places, “tag” users as they wander around town or across the country. These updates, “Jane Smith is now in Starbucks in downtown Bellingham” appear as status updates. Why would someone want to share location information with the public? Isn’t that sort of creepy? To old notions of privacy, geo-tagging is a little creepy, but to the social media pioneer, tagging allows one to track others (“Hey! I’m at Starbucks too!”) and possibly meet up or view communities in real time.
- URL meets IRL – Fasten your seat belts, folks, we’re entering another dimension at the intersection of virtual and real called “social scanning.” Programs like Stickybits encourage you to “tag your world.” You can add barcodes to businesses you frequent and then scan in photos, video, and commentary in real time. It is also a real sticker that you can download and place on a real business -sort of a virtual Like button. A boon to businesses that elicit positive scans, but one wonders if negative scans will be left in place for long.
- Specialized content sharing – Only interested in news and information relating to red fire ant behavior in the Mojave Desert? Niche content sharing is for you! For many media consumers, scanning all headlines is no longer a desired use of time. Instead, people want to target their attention to a sub-topic or interest area. Answering the question, “What are you working on?” people working in a specific field are able to share project ideas, photos, even drafts for others to review and comment upon. This makes way for seriously collaborative opportunities.
What does all this mean to health information, patient privacy, and infectious disease? Well, what if in the future we scan our doctor and leave comments in real-time for those who follow us on Facebook. For example, “Don’t ever use this pediatrician, he’s very poor with fussy kids.”
Or maybe we’re newly diagnosed with hep C, and we want to filter our content by that disease alone? Or we are a nonprofit health coalition interested in soliciting feedback on our new website. Sites like Dribbble allow us to do just that. Interested in infectious disease as a patient or caregiver? The notion of online community is going to change radically over the next decade. Whatever happens next, it’s clear Facebook and Twitter are only the beginning.
And the lines between the virtual world and the real world will become very blurry.