Social overload…

LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Twylah, Empire Avenue, WordPress, Klout, Peer Index, Twenty Feet, Kred, Path, Instagram, Foursquare etc and 100 other lookie likies.  Many of these didn’t exist a couple of years ago – or more importantly didn’t vie for my attention.  Having just returned from our second ever camping trip where connectivity is non existent, it occurs to me as I wade through my inbox that the ever increasing noise from these various platforms is becoming almost unmanageable.  I hate email as it is, but now my inbox seems to swim with more and more “you got this perk” or “see who unfollowed you” messages that frankly i care less and less about.

Being away and without connectivity has made me re think the way I’m living my online life.  Seriously.  And question the value of these various platforms to my, and more importantly perhaps, my family’s life.  Being unconnected for a week was bliss – we walked, we talked. We played air hockey (Want a table in my house!) we played scrabble and monopoly.  We bonded. We had time for each other.  We were present.  Or should I say “I” was present, not just physically but mentally too.  And thats the main point for me – at times its easy to be ‘half present’ – half in a conversation with someone in person, but half engrossed in a conversation online, or flipping through updates.  It has become painfully obvious to me that this half presence is a cancer in families, especially those with young children like mine.

Maybe its just me.  Perhaps I’m getting old and my bandwidth is shrinking but I’m questioning whether I’m richer for a lot of this stuff.  Ultimately, the problem is the landscape is still very immature despite how it might feel.  It’s like the early days of the internet with website after website, solution after solution all coming at you at 100 miles an hour.  But that eventually stopped when we realised a lot of them couldn’t monetize the offering or there were just too many lookie likes.  It will happen in this new social tech world too.  Its just that I don’t have the bandwidth anymore to entertain all the contenders.  At some point it will burst and things will get back to normal – consolidation and competition will clear out some of the social clutter and we will get on with doing normal business with the new tools but without the hyperventilating over IPO this and that.

So. In anticipation of this streamline future I’m having my own cull.  Im making space in my head and in my life.  Shrinking my social footprint, not expanding it.  Here’s the plan:

Twitter - Im sticking with Twtter.  It’s a great blend of personal and professional and Ive made more great and productive relationships (Nay friendships) through twitter in 2 years than I have through LinkedIn in 7.  However, my twitter habits are changing.  My wife and children deserve better than a half present husband and dad – they deserve my full attention.  So until such time as my kids find their mates and their own smartphones more interesting than their crusty old dad, and or my wife does the same, i’ll be spending most of my evenings and weekends outside of the twitterverse.

Blog - Im sticking with that too.  I’ve always been a writer.  Before the internet it was my own journals, articles for magazines, then pages for websites,  and now my blog.  So I shall continue to inflict my opinions on the world.  Sorry about that @neilmorrison ;)

LinkedIn – The chaps at LinkedIn actually owe a huge debt to twitter.  In fact many of the core social platforms out there do, especially the blogs.  I had been getting tired of LinkedIn’s spammy groups and lack of realtime interaction – there is only so much tweaking of ones profile one can do.  However, I find all those people I’m meeting face to face through twitter etc, I’m now connecting with on LinkedIn.  It is also my ‘living CV’ so I’m in no hurry to walk away from it and go back to producing endless Word versions of the same thing.

Facebook – I’ve never been big on Facebook but it has put me back in touch with people from my past in a way that friendsreunited never could.  So I’m keeping it, but I don’t have the bandwidth to sit on it for hours checking updates and commenting in groups.  I know I’m missing out on some great banter, but my kids are funny too.

Instagram – I’m really starting to like instagram.  Not sure why, but it appeals to the inner writer in me.  It takes me back to the pre internet days when I wrote travel journals and peppered them with photo’s of my exploits.  An online record of moments in time, captured for all to see for as long as the servers keep humming.  And I’m continuously knocked out by other peoples ability to capture and share some fabulous snapshots of their lives too.

Thats the keep list.  So what of everything else?  Well, I’m a serial early adopter, and I’m still very interested in how some of the things are panning out so im not going to erase them totally from my life, especially if I think they may have legs in terms of marketing or engagement.  But a couple at the top of my list of things to spend very little time in or on are:

Empire Avenue – Our obsession with shares, especially the magic ‘earnings per share’ number have brought us to a very ugly economic place globally so I’m struggling with applying the concept to individuals.  I barely have time to consider share prices in relation to my pension fund so I simply don’t have time to think about it in terms of “brand me” (Yuk) or anyone else.  Yes its actually nice to “invest” in someone – its a great way of giving them kudos and sharing the love you feel about them.  But I’ve always been able to do that online and more importantly, offline.  Face to face.  Either by telling them so or by recommending them to others. So ill continue to do just that.  Its cash in my shares time!

Klout, Kred et al. – Im not convinced that Klout is really going to make a difference to my life and certainly at the moment it is not credible enough to be of any value.  I recently conducted an experiment with it – I added my other social footprints – Facebook, blog, flickr etc, took up the perks, “shared the news” with my friends via twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn and generally increased my activity levels.  And of course my score went up.  It’s the same with Foursquare – if you tweet or “share” your check in, you get more points than if you don’t.  To me, all this is bollocks and there is a lot of work to do before any kind of scoring algorithm can make a call about me, if ever.  This article, whilst I don’t agree with the bread analogy, sums it up nicely.  Although i’d say be you, not your personal brand.

I think I’m not the only one to be considering the same – I’ve picked up other similar thoughts through my contacts and I would be interested in your views.

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4 thoughts on “Social overload…

  1. A very honest blog Gareth!I agree and think many people in these technoworlds will too. I came off Facebook a few months back, deciding that it wasn’t doing me any good, I was living in a fake world poking friends and messaging them, rather than driving over and actually seeing them and have a proper conversation. In short I be game a lazy friend and for those who weren’t on Facebook I’ve been non-existent. And as the old saying goes, it’s not quantity it’s quality.

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    • Hi Katherine! You came off Facebook? Wow, good for you. I know what you mean about facebook and the real friend thing. Its too easy to connect briefly and online instead of a good catch up. I have been neglecting my friends too so im going to make a concerted effort to do the same as you. Well done for taking control.

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  2. I’ve just come back online after 3 weeks of internet abstinence (well, okay, apart from a few peeks here and there!).

    I’m also a bit overwhelmed by the sheer….sheer-ness of it all!! My list is almost indentical to your’s…

    I’ve decided that twitter etc work best for me as a means to meet people and not for me to write reams and reams (I don’t have the attention span to be honest) – I use twitter/linked in to find out about events mostly..there’s nothing quite like having a good natter over a drink with someone…or many :)

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    • I have found that twitter is great for bringing me fact to face with people and my social world has been enriched by it. My face to face activity is much higher. But the other things are more distracting and add much less value to me personally. Here’s to our next face to face drink ;)

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