Molly Adair


The Next Generation of Social Media: Candid Social Networks

The beauty (and occasional curse) of Facebook is that it allows users to control how much they want to share. Oversharers can run rampant and reserved users can stick to reading friends' updates. You have full control over what you post, how often you post, and who sees it.

Yet, not matter how intentional I or anyone else is on Facebook and Twitter, it's easy to overlook the social networks that reveal more personal details. Recently I woke up to a notification from a friend asking how I could have possibly walked a total of 10 miles when it was so cold out. I was taken aback. My mind raced trying to figure out where I had slipped up. Did I sleep-tweet about how I'd gone for a long run? Had I texted him to complain about the cold? Or the worst-case scenario; was he somehow watching my every move?

Luckily I'm not some sort of nocturnal tweeter or forgetful texter. But I wasn't wrong about my last conclusion. I was willingly and inadvertently broadcasting my every move thanks to a new Jawbone band and its integrated app.

The Jawbone band is an activity monitor that synthesizes steps, sleep, and food-tracking data. (I recently got one in a quest to be more active in the frigid tundra of New England.) The integrated app is designed to streamline activity tracking, but also to serve as a social network. I can add friends to my "team," allowing them access to any data I publish as public (which is most.) The name "team" is appropriate - we can cheer each other on or lament nights where we didn't get enough sleep. I loved the idea of being able to cheer friends on -- and as inherently competitive person, to see how many steps other people were taking. But I wasn't factoring in how friends could see how I woke up at 3:34 AM last night or that this week I'm trying to eat more protein. I suddenly felt exposed.

Another example of candid sharing is Spotify. Spotify has created a strong music community that allows you to access a wide range of music, as well as a social music-listening network. You can connect to friends and listen to their playlists or see what's popular in your network. Many listeners allow Spotify to post to Facebook, so at any given moment you could deduce your friend's mood based on their listening preferences. You can also access friends' playlists - a feature that is great if you share a mutual love of 90's music, but less ideal if you want to keep your guilty listening pleasures hidden from friends.

Arguably the most candid of social networks is Venmo. We normally go to great lengths to avoid sharing our finances and purchasing patterns on social media, but Venmo broadcasts this raw data by sharing financial interactions. Though transaction amounts are hidden, Venmo requires you to state a reason for a payment or charge. These descriptions are far more revealing than any Facebook post ever could be. You can tell if a friend is on a trip when they're splitting AirBnB and cabs, or if someone's moving into a new place due to their "half a table" and "half of the couch" transactions. Even a "Salt (snow emoji, snowman emoji)" can tell you that two roommates are digging themselves out of the recent snowstorm in DC.

It's here on these candid social networks that we reveal who we truly are. I might craft a carefully worded Facebook update about some recent activity, but it's on UP that friends will see how long it takes me to walk to work. On Spotify, they'll discover my guilty pleasure is the "Fifty Shades of Grey" movie soundtrack. And on Venmo, they'll see that I've gone out for Thai food a lot in the past month. These paint a far more accurate picture of my life than anything I tweet.

Now the question emerges - will the future of social media rely on these candid actions? Will I wake up and cheer on my friend Cameron for sleeping 8 hours instead of perusing Instagram? And if this is the future of social media, what does the future of advertising on these platforms look like? Will Nike congratulate me on my 5K run and suggest I buy a new pair of sneakers?

I guess we'll have to wait to find out. In the mean time, you can find me pacing our coworking space trying to meet my daily step goal. 

Molly AdairComment