I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the idea of serendipity lately – no, not the frozen hot chocolate place in NYC, although that would be delicious in this record breaking heat. I’m talking about serendipity in the digital sense, or what marketers and digital folks are calling ‘social serendipity’.
As many people have lamented, the irony of social media is that in many ways it is inherently anti-social; drop by any ‘influencer party’ and you’ll likely see the local Twitteratti, cocktails in hand, with their heads down on their smartphones. Paradoxically, the shrinking of the world thanks to digital technology has in some ways isolated us from what’s happening around us. The idea of social serendipity, one of the de riguer social trends coming out of SXSW this year, is the concept of using social technologies to connect people across the street (or the room) versus the country. Apps like Highlight connect you to social matches (aka, people with whom you have a lot of mutual Facebook friends) that are nearby. Another perhaps a less/more savory example (depending on your definition of savoury!) is Grindr, a location based app that allows gay men to browse, message, and ultimately arrange hook ups with men in their area. It’s essentially bringing social beyond the digital world and into the real world, creating a ‘serendipitous’ moment of discovery.
For me, one of the most fascinating facets of social technology is not necessarily the actual technological innovation, but rather the sociological implications of that technology; are apps that connect you with strangers nearby something most people would actually be interested in? Call me anti-social, but something about it seems a bit…creepy. While the concept can apply to discovering new restaurants, events, or sales based on your social preferences, the idea of using it to meet strangers is slightly out of my comfort zone. What’s your opinion on social serendipity? Fun? Useful? Creepy?