What I’ve Ben thinking of today:
1. Trade lives with someone else for 20 days.
2. Married? Single? Dating? Just click ‘Ask’
3. #AmazonCart is an #awesomeidea

1. Sick of your life? Want to experience someone else’s for 20 days? Then this new app is for you.

The prospect of trading places with someone else fascinates us. There have been movies made about it. We watch TV shows about swapping wives and lives. But now you can actually do it. And no, Mortimer and Randolph aren’t behind this one.

MIT Media Lab’s Playful Systems research group developed this app along with MIT’s Dalai Lama Center for Ethics and Transformative Values.

Yes, the Dalai Lama Center for Ethics and Transformative Values. This isn’t about swapping places with someone. This is about getting a glimpse into the lives of others and teaching us empathy (compassion) for those we encounter every day – forcing us to realize that – gasp – we are not at the center of the universe.

Here’s how it works:
• You apply to participate here
• If chosen you will experience that person’s life for 20 days through a series of images, check-ins and (online) social interaction.
• At the end of the 20 days you will be given the opportunity to exchange information with your partner or simply end and move on (or re-apply). It’s all done anonymously so you never have to let the other person know who you are – nor will you directly interact with them.

It’s a great social experiment that could make us more compassionate and aware of others. Or maybe it could help us realize that the grass – despite what is portrayed on social media channels – isn’t greener.

Would you sign-up for something like this?

2. My name is Ben Brugler. And let me save you the trouble of asking: I’m married.

Oh, that’s right. I already saved you the trouble by updating my relationship status on Facebook. So you don’t have to ask. But if I hadn’t – well, thanks to Facebook you can now ask me.

Yep, Facebook is accelerating destiny by giving you the opportunity to ask someone who doesn’t have a relationship status. As in ask them if they want to get a coffee, a drink, check-in somewhere together or send pictures of their meals to each other – you know, all the basics of dating in 2014.

The problem is – what if that person is married or is in a relationship…but doesn’t have it listed for a reason, likes the attention and now…you’re (kind of) catfishing. Well, maybe not really but the fact is it does create some awkwardness. My thought is if you have to use an ask button to inquire about someone’s relationship status, you probably need to rethink some things. If you want to pursue online dating use an actual online dating service.

3. #AmazonCart looks awesome. What’s next, #AmazonDrones? Social commerce continues to accelerate as Amazon has rolled out #AmazonCart. You can use this hashtag in replying to any tweet with a link to an Amazon product and it will be added to your Amazon account.

You do have to link your Twitter and Amazon accounts to do it but the idea is Amazon doesn’t want you to have to go to its page to buy a product. They are breaking down the digital walls of its (virtual) storefront and thinking in ways that traditional brick and mortar retailers should. Using the hashtag doesn’t cause you actually purchase the item so you still have a safety net to help you avoid buyer’s remorse.

In reality, while this seems progressive – and it is – does this move seem like such a stretch? When you consider how we as consumers have been trained as well as our rapidly decreasing expectations around making a purchase, this is actually a year late. If we can interact with a brand or a retailer on social networks, why can’t we consume that brand or retailer on social networks?

I expect Netflix to jump on this shortly as a way to connect you directly to shows and movies you want to watch, whether you’re paying for the streaming service or not. And what’s holding brands back from doing something similar? The same concept applies if you can purchase the product directly from the company’s website.

It all makes you ask one of my favorite questions: What’s next? I mentioned #AmazonDrones in my headline… and I was kidding. Kind of.