Each week Adam Frucci takes a closer look at the latest gadget buzz in his column, Shift.
Image by Matt Krueger
MySpace and Facebook are technically "social networking" sites, but are they really that social? Sure, you can get in touch with people and even make some new friends, but it still has you glued to the computer while you're using it. Sitting in front of a computer screen is decidedly unsocial, no matter what you're doing there. With portable electronics getting more and more sophisticated by the day, these sites (or new sites like them) will soon be unplugging from the computer and going with us out in the real world. What kinds of benefits and features will we see as these sites get more involved in our actual social lives?
Let's imagine a new site that was designed not to connect people just when they're sitting at their computers, but in real life as well. We'll call it "RealityConnect," just to keep it simple. RealityConnect is event-based rather than profile-based. That means unlike MySpace, a site based around personal profiles, it would be similar to sites like Flavorpill or Oh My Rockness, with listings for cultural events like movies, concerts, art openings, and the like. These listings would be city-specific, so you'd use a localized version of RealityConnect depending on where you live. You could use your PDA or phone to connect when you're out and about and find out what's going on wherever you are.
In addition to the site-created event calendar, users would be able to create and share their own events much like you can do using Google Calendar and Evite. Combine this with the profile-based setup of MySpace and you have a new type of site that is focused on real-life events rather than on just creating profiles. People could share photos about events as recaps as well as to use in the listings of similar upcoming events.
Profiles would still be a part of it, however. Much like current sites, having a list of friends would be a vital part to how RealityConnect would work. You could view the event listings through a filter, seeing only events that your friends had posted, your friends were planning on going to, or that people who had gone to similar events as you were planning on going to. It would start out as a site that had an editorial team telling you about cool stuff going on, but it would soon become a way for anyone to become an events promoter. Think you know about the coolest stuff going on? Let people subscribe to your calendar and see if you're right. When you aren't by your computer and you want to see what your friends are up to, just check in with the site via your portable device. You can check out what your friends have going on and plan your evening accordingly.
There current setup of social networking sites can only do so much. MySpace allows you to plan events, but it feels like a tacked-on addition to the site rather than a central focus. Rather than just being able to send out invites, RealityConnect would allow you to reach new people who like similar events and find events based on what you like. It would allow you to really expand your social network rather than just adding people you already know as friends. RealityConnect would put the social back in social networking sites, allowing people to really change how their social lives work. The technology for all this stuff is right here, but it's spread out across a number of different sites. Someone needs to come in and use these things to create a site that allows people to get the benefits of social networking and online event planning when they aren't sitting at their desk. Then our social events will really be networked.