by Kyle Bunch
By the time SXSW ‘11 kicks off, there will be well over 500 million “people” on Facebook and well over 250 million on Twitter.
We used to ask how many of the users on sites like MySpace had a real person on the other end. Today, as increasing sophisticated bots and artificial intelligence intersect with the simplified relationships that fill our social media spaces, we have passed the point where that really matters. The collective cry of the bots grows ever louder: "If you poke us, do we not tweet?"
Social touchpoints like toll-free numbers have long been manned by automated systems designed to put a barrier between the customer and the people behind the scenes. Is it any surprise that the same tactics are being used when it comes to social media?
This isn't just companies. The virtual world has always offered an opportunity to become someone else, from the earliest BBS and chat room environments to MMORPGs and now social networks. Even if you're not talking to a company-created bot, there's a good chance you're talking to someone pretending to be someone vastly different than their real world doppleganger.
When we establish relationships with people we've never met IRL, where does someone become real? And for someone looking for interactivity, how much does ‘real’ matter? If a relationship is little more than passing timely and relevant links and media back and forth, is finding out that you're sharing a friendship with a bot really such a bad thing?
11th–15th March 2011