Let me first say, that this is really just my opinion, and I do not speak for all introverts, or for all trainers, or for all bloggers.
Last week, I was in Vegas for our annual User’s Conference at the Aria Resort and Hotel. As with most conferences, when you work for the company putting on the conference, and are tasked with presenting various sessions during the conference, there is very little of what you might call down time. In fact, I arrived at the hotel on Saturday, and never even really had a chance to go outside until Weds. evening. And go, I did. Because as much as I enjoy training, meeting with customers, and talking eDiscovery with a variety of people, as an introvert there is only so long that I can be “on” before I just get exhausted.
So when some free time opened up on Weds. I left the hotel in search of somewhere I could have dinner without anyone recognizing me, wanting to talk about our products, or the conference sessions. I craved the opportunity to simply be anonymous for a couple of hours, and left alone. Again, this is not because I don’t enjoy those interactions, but introverts have to work hard in any social situation, even ones that we enjoy, and eventually all that work just catches up with us. We spend far more time thinking about what we say and how we come across than extroverts, and require time to recharge our mental energy, away from other people. Vegas is a great place to be an introvert generally, because everyone is doing their own thing and really paying no attention to you, allowing you to be out, and yet still recharge your social interaction energy levels. Such was the case that evening.
The introduction of wearable tech, especially with facial recognition, is going to change that. Every time I step outside there will be the chance that someone will spot me, decide to do a little facial recognition, look me up on LinkedIn, or find the blog, and suddenly I’m no longer just another nameless person who happens to be eating dinner, I’m Mike McBride, ediscovery software trainer, blogger, amateur photographer, traveler, etc. and let’s face it, if you share an interest, or want to talk about one of the things I do, you’ll come and talk to me about it. That’s the point of wearing the tech and looking people up in the first place, isn’t it?
Not that I think there is a very high risk of someone bothering to look me up, but the risk is still there and as this kind of technology becomes more widespread, I will be forced to adapt my expectations of “down time”. I will have to expect that I am no longer anonymous, but that anyone could know who I am and be tying my online life to my actions as I eat a meal, or walk down a street. Am I dumb enough to be doing anything out in public that would be embarrassing professionally or personally? Of course not, but we all know that people behave, and feel, differently when they know they are being watched. Introverts feel that need to be “on” when being watched, and instead of recharging our social energy, we wind up depleting it just by virtue of being in a public place.
Of course, for me, the risk is probably fairly small, but I will still be aware of it and it will absolutely affect me and the things I do to recharge my social energy levels. What about people who are more recognizable who are introverts? What about attractive women who are introverts? Do you really think they won’t have folks “Googling” them as a way to find an excuse to talk to them?
Unfortunately, for all the cool, “wow”, things wearable tech and facial recognition could do, they also will absolutely result in the following things as well:
- Socially awkward guys using information gleaned from online profiles to stalk, harass, hit on, or do worse to, attractive females they happen to run across in public. Or vice versa.
- Small actions seen in public taken out of context, and used to embarrass people on social networks, or potentially as blackmail.
- Photos taken in public places by complete strangers being tied to social network profiles. (Imagine if People of Walmart could actually identify the people in the photos, for example.)
- An overall change in public behavior. If everything could be recorded, how we interact socially will have to change. The free exchange of ideas that generally only happens in private now, for fear of public repercussions, will cease to exist.
- More and more people, and groups, becoming socially outcast as their actions are recorded, shared, linked to their identity, and ridiculed.
- Introverts will revert to spending more time alone, and withdrawing from society bit by bit, as they lose the ability to recharge outside of their own home.
That last point is an important one. The reality is that soon, you will have to make a choice between having an online presence, which is so important for your career as a knowledge worker, and adjusting your behavior to minimize the impact of wearable tech on your privacy, or simply dropping out of the online world altogether. (If you don’t have any online profiles, people using Glass can’t find out who you are.). Neither of these are good choices for an introvert. They are both very limiting, and force you to withdraw from the life you may lead now. We are being forced to this choice by the extroverted and tech crowds who are suspicious of people who don’t want to be “out there” all the time. The technology exists so you’re just going to have to get used to everyone using it all the time.
To them I can only say, that having something to hide, and wanting to be left alone, are not one and the same.