Once upon a time, our lives did not revolve around Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram and “blogger” was just a funny sounding word, not a profession. We received our news from the newspaper rather than our phones, and if we accidentally hit the Internet button on our Motorola Razr, we hit end 100 times in order to spare our parents from paying for that luxury. It’s hard to believe that this was just fifteen years ago.
When we think about how technology has changed since 2000, it’s simply mindboggling. Now we not only have Internet on our phones, but we use this Internet every single day. Since Facebook was invented, we have seen social media change from a fad to a growing phenomenon to a career choice to a way of life. It has completely changed not only how people communicate with one another, but also how brands market to the consumer and how the media interacts with its audience. But we are not done yet. There is no crystal ball and I’m not a fortuneteller, but in the next five, ten, and twenty-five years, I believe that we will see a huge growth, and change, in social and digital media.
When you think about how connected you are to your iPhone, it may make you feel guilty. Now that iOS9 allows you to see which applications are eating your battery life, I am now aware of the amount of time I spend on my social networking sites. I’ve tried to disconnect a bit as a result but even so, Facebook has consumed 32% of my battery in the last twenty-four hours. I’m addicted to my phone, my social media sites, and my network, and I am not optimistic enough to think that this connectivity is going to get better – in fact, I think it is only going to get worse. We are going to see technology that is so ingrained in our lives that it actually becomes part of us. Now we see it everywhere we go with our phone in our hands and with Google Glass on our faces, but what about when we don’t even have to make commands in order for technology to respond to us? What if I could simply think “I wish I had some Chinese takeout right now” and my device could automatically order it for me, even knowing what I want because I pictured it in my head? Or because it knows that I have ordered the exact same thing the last four times? This is already being tested with brain-to-brain communication – why not brain-to-Siri communication next? And then, how long would it take before we were able to communicate to one another through our minds – no social media platforms needed? Imagine how connected we would be to each other, and our technology, then!
How many of you sleep with your phone under your pillow? Guilty. How many of you automatically check your email and social media sites in the morning before you even put your feet on the ground? Guilty. How many of you are posting to Facebook or Twitter while driving down the street? Guilty. We are so connected to our social media right now that we are even using it at times that we shouldn’t – we sacrifice our sleep, or meals, even our lives in order to post on social media and interact with others, oftentimes people we have never even met in real life. How will this change as social media, email, and technology become an even bigger part of our lives? I can’t help but think about our work-life balance or lack thereof if our devices (or whatever technology is now part of us) are connected at all times. We are already stressed about the fact that we are connected at all times and yet we oftentimes don’t even realize that our devices are the cause of our problems. Heavy technology use is linked to fatigue, stress, and even depression and yet we still feel the need to be connected at all times. Can you imagine what we would do to our bodies if we were even more connected? If technology wasn’t just next to us but a part of us?
Problems with Data
At my core, I am a historian. I have both a B.A. and M.A. in the subject and I love it with my entire being. That being said, I fear for future historians. When I was writing my M.A. thesis, my research focused on Argentina from 1976-1983. It was a great time to focus on because enough time had passed to look on the era with a clear view and see its repercussions, but it wasn’t so far back that finding information was particularly cumbersome. If I looked hard enough, I could find more or less everything I needed. The good news is that in the future, this will also be the case – everything a historian needs to know can be found somewhere on the Internet. The question then becomes: will she be able to find it? With so much data out there, how will he sift through it to find the important information? In 2010, scientists estimated that there was 1.2 zettabytes (or 1.3 trillion gigabyte) stored on the Internet – which amounts to 339 miles of fully-loaded iPads stacked together.
As of November 2014, 204 million emails and 277,000 tweets were being sent each minute. That’s 294 billion emails and 40 million tweets each day. Even if .00001% of those were about a subject that was of interest to the historian, it would take them a lifetime to get a full picture of an event. And perhaps this won’t be a problem for the historian, but for everyone. With so much information flying at us all at once, how will we decipher what is not only true and accurate, but also relevant and interesting to us? Big data is currently great for companies who are using it to market to us and sell us their product, but what happens when big data becomes too big – when there is simply too much of it to be useful?
I love technology, despite the negativity of this post, and I think that it is doing wonders for us in the way that we interact with the world and the people around us. I think that there are a lot of different ways that we can use technology to make our world a better place, but I am hesitant of the amount of information and the type of information that we are so freely giving away. How do you think technology and social media will change in the next twenty years?