Could The Future Of Online Networking Be Offline?

by Jason Falls |

Despite my fear of giving away pertinent insight, this blog post was necessary to prevent by feeble brain from imploding. While discussing the explosion of social media and networking trends of Web 2.0 with a client today, I took pause to think about what Web 3.0 might look like. My vision might actually be Web 4.0 or 5.0, but what I see isn’t what my techno-geek friends probably anticipate.

Jeff Pulver’s group hug birthday photoHuman nature can be volatile, inconsistent and even frustrating to predict. Just ask anyone in the marketing or advertising business about it and they’ll roll their eyes. All the statistics in the world couldn’t have predicted people would flee the real world for their laptops and IM each other from across the Starbucks. Perhaps the only thing you can predict about human nature is that it will be volatile, inconsistent and frustrating.

When I see marketers blog about what truly engages and reaches people in a social media setting, the bottom line is normally a human connection. One person reaching out to another with like mind or common interest and sharing information: that’s networking. Not social networking, not online community networking, not Myspacey, Facebooky, Twittery non-celebrity fan club-ism, but real human interaction.

That’s why Web 3.0 (or some increment with an unnecessary decimal point and geek zero added – Does Bill Gates get residuals for the use of “point-oh”?) looks mighty glum to me.

I see the downside of the bell curve where people turn away from their LCD display and say, “I haven’t had a meal with another human being in six months.” They’ll call their worried mothers, knock on the neighbor’s door to see if they need anything from the corner store and carry on a 20 minute conversation with the check-out clerk.

We’re human beings, not machines. We need other human beings to prove this.

So it is my contention that the next big thing will be the site, company or brand that figures out how to take the online community offline and inject human interaction into the experience. No amount of Second Life enthusiasm, no degree of Facebook addiction and no delineation of Twitter feeds can make a person feel real.

For the record, I hope I can be the one to figure it out first. I don’t realistically think I’m quite that smart. But I sure am going to have fun trying.

What do you think Web 3.0 will look like? Do you think the pendulum of online networking fascination one day swing the other way?

PHOTO: “DSC_0393” from Jeff Pulver’s Flickr.

[tags]social media, social networking, Web 2.0, Web 3.0, Web 4.0, Web 5.0, networking, human nature, sociology, psychology, human behavior, future[/tags]

About the Author

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).