Automation is quickly becoming one of the big buzzwords of 2011, and usually not for any positive reason. Social media users are quick to discount other Twitter users who automate their account by sending auto-DMs to new followers, or Facebook users who use an automated system for publishing each and every blog post they write to their Facebook profile or fan page. Though statistically automation in this sense could prove to be pointless, these same theories could be applied successfully to broader actions we take using technology.

If This Then That is a brand new service (still in beta) that automates many aspects of your life. Say you want a text message if it’s going to rain tomorrow instead of visiting the local news site or using a weather app on your phone. Want an instant message reminder to take a break from work every fifteen minutes? If This Then That (IFTTT) can do both of these for you, and more. With IFTTT, users can choose a “this” event, such as the weather changing, or an email from a specific person, and trigger a “then” event, such as a brief message about the event sent to you via SMS. You can choose an event, whether a this or that, from dozens of social networks and apps, including email, Dropbox, Evernote, Google Reader, Instapaper, and more.

if this then that appThe beauty of IFTTT is that while some of these automation actions are available within each native mobile or desktop app — such as setting a reminder on your phone every hour or sending email to SMS — you can customize exactly how you want to receive unlimited and specific notifications from almost any type of media you consume, send, or receive. Unlike a service like Ping.fm, IFTTT does not intend to duplicate material across social networks, but rather allow users to receive notifications when and where they want to see them. IFTTT could theoretically replace your alarm clock, along with the need to check dozens of apps every hour for updates, changes, or new messages. For those who have a fear of missing out on certain updates across social networks, IFTTT can help keep you in the loop by updating you with specific messages and updates from Facebook, without you needing to constantly check Facebook on the Web or your phone, preventing distraction throughout the day.

Try out IFTTT by signing up for the beta version at ifttt.com, and be sure to let us know what you think.