So I’ve done something that has taken social networking to the next level.
How would you feel about being ‘friended’ by someone you have lots in common with, but is a complete stranger? You’ve never met this person, but you are connected to them.
I’m talking about social networking based on your genes and DNA.
If you follow me on twitter, you can probably recall that I sent off a sample of my saliva to have my DNA analyzed. I sent it to a company called 23 And Me (www.23andme.com). They were first featured on Oprah a few years back and more recently on Anderson (Anderson Cooper’s new daytime talk show). They product is rooted in science. Here’s how it works.
You sign-up for an account and pay them money.
They send you a kit.
You spit into the kit, shake it, seal it, and send it off to their lab in California.
4-6 weeks later you get an analysis of your genome.
The results are completely on-line. You recieve an e-mail saying that your results are ready and to log in to find out. The findings are grouped into 2 distinct areas each with their own sub-groups.
1. Health (Disease Risks, Drug Interactions, Health Labs, to name a few).
2. Ancestry (Maternal and Paternal lineage, and golbal ancestry).
I knew that I would find out this information (as I had done my due diligance and research before signing up), what happened next was a surprise to me. When I logged in (one day after I had received the e-mail) I already had a request in my account to make a new connection…..with a 5th cousin! (It turns out that there are 247 other people on 23 and Me with whom I am related to (mostly 3rd to 6th cousins)). This brings social networking to a whole new level.
I’ve never met this person…nor have I ever heard of this person. Is there more of an obligation to accept this friend request and start sharing my DNA information with him? They always say “You can’t pick your family!”. It turns out that we’re 5th cousins…which means we share Great-Great-Great-Great-Grandparents. Whoa! I’ve probably passed by people in the mall that I could be closer related to. What about privacy? Just because we’re ‘family’ do I open up and share everything?
How long will it be before either 23 and Me expands their social networking to be more like facebook, or what if facebook decides that 23 and Me would make a good purchase? Social Networking has already made it easy for us to share the details of our lives. They’ve also made us comfortable with it. I know that personally I’ve become more ‘comfortable’ and feel ‘safer’ on the internet. How long will it be until even more of us is shared with friends…family….strangers?