One thing I’ve noticed from being connected to so many people, is that information overload is kicking my butt. I have more twitter, mybloglog, facebook, myspace, IM, etc. messages than I can handle. Here’s what I’m doing to handle this:
1. Ignoring Almost All Of Them
Most messages that I get in my email inbox that are headered with the name of a social site (ie [socialsite] New message to you from so-and-so) get automatically archived. When 50% of your several hundred email messages per day are these types of messages, you know that there is no way you can read them all. To save myself from being in my inbox all day, I delete these outright.
Now, that’s not to say I don’t read them eventually, but I only read them when I actually log into the service, later, at my convenience. If I didn’t do this, I’d be a wreck.
2. Removing Myself From Overactive Communities
When I notice that one person, or one group, is just too loud, I have no problem voting with my feet. Sure, I like all the groups I’ve joined, but when they no longer add value to my life, and consistently devalue it, I must make the responsible decision to leave. I have done this on Mybloglog, on Facebook and on LinkedIn (yes, lots of recruiters have gotten the heave-ho for sending me messages everytime they needed to fill a job, most of the time, completely unrelated to me).
3. Thinking Carefully Before Joining Some Groups
If I know that a person is, let’s say chatty, in other mediums, then I will assume they will be chatty via their social networks. Now, twitter is an excellent example of this one. Some people tell you everytime they brush their teeth. Is this spam? No, of course not, but it annoys me, so I leave them. Now, would I want to remove their ability to send out messages? No, we all use these types of networks differently, however, I don’t have the time to read about their every move, so to save my sanity, I bid them farewell. The cool part is they usually don’t even realize it so I’ve not hurt their feelings one bit.
The point here is that everyone has to find their sweet spot in social networks. For some, facebook replaces their IM and email, for me, I seem to be only logging in lately to answer friend requests and application invites. I’m sure as the application hype slows, my facebook enjoyment will return, so I’m not leaving facebook anytime soon. However, I know that I have to pull away a bit, or I’m not going to get any work done.
Finding your sweet spot means deciding which messages are worth your time and which can be politely ‘ignored’. For me, most everything I get, unless it’s specifically addressed to me, is easy to ignore.
If I had my wish, I’d love to be able to see on Facebook if a message was ONLY sent to me. This is possible on mybloglog, twitter, linkedin, etc. and I think it would add a great deal of value for people like me, who are drowning in application invites.
Whatever we do to stop the burst of information, social sites are here to stay and are almost required for people in the tech industry. We have to find out a way to keep them from taking over our lives, unless of course we like the constant attention. For me, I’m burning out and the only way to keep me from packing up my avatars and quitting is finding ways to lessen the noise.