It finally happened to me. I never thought it would, but it sure did.
What am I talking about? Information Overload
We’ve seen a slew of blog posts, studies, articles, and general commentary about this phenomenon. There are even psychological analyses and studies on this topic. Surely you’ve seen the various viewpoints…those who think our newly adopted, manic multi-tasking culture is a natural evolution, and those who think we were never meant to operate in this fashion. The Millennials / Net Generation / whatever you want to call the folks born from 1980 forward are experts at it. They operate differently, and they seem to have no problem with hopping from topic-to-topic, conversation-to-conversation, rapidly absorbing, filtering, and interpreting as many data points as they can possibly access.
Personally, I think it’s a natural evolution in behavior. As a species, we have always evolved to take advantage of new innovations. In fact, there’s a little concept we call Darwinism that explains why certain members of each species manage to survive over the long term, and why others do not. If you can’t keep up, you get left behind, as sad as that reality may be.
But there’s another issue here. That model of evolution makes a lot of sense, but it has historically conspired over extended periods of time, decades, centuries, even millenniums. But now we are making large-scale advancements between generations and even decades. Many Baby Boomers simply don’t understand or condone the younger sect’s way of operating. That doesn’t make them superior or more right. After all, they were raised in a different time where mass media was the primary form of communications. That medium, by its very nature, is a single stream of content on which you need to focus.
I find myself in an odd between state, where I can often be much more productive via focusing, but where my normal mode of operation is fragmented like the younger group.
A couple of things changed that put me over the tipping point.
First, I decided to dabble with foursquare over the course of several months. My initial reaction to the service was negative. Thoughts of an Orwellian future filled my head on first glance. Why do I want to advertise where I am? And as we’ve seen, why advertise where I am not? Well, the repeated advice from social media “gurus” that I needed to get on the Geolocation train finally broke me down and I started to play the game. Those of you who know me personally have already likely heard about my concerns, even while I was using it (probably a mad effort to rationalize it for myself, actually).
Second, my job changed a bit and became significantly more busy. Like 14 trade shows in 4 months busy, on top of my existing messaging, social media, and other responsibilities. I also inherited all of MarCom for Anue Systems.
Of course, sooner or later, something had to give. I was already juggling a full time job, family, blogging, and a list of other items. But a couple of weeks ago, I got this mad feeling to go hide under a rock. Yep, it was full-on Information Overload.
So I had to make a very important choice: Simplify.
Start removing those I follow on Twitter with whom I have no relationship to speak of or who provide no value to me. If they stop following, oh well. Quality over quantity, right?
Focus more on conversations rather than content. And strongly focus on real people in my locale who I can meet and engage with offline. This was the most refreshing of all of these changes!
Now I feel much better. Call it a social media spring cleaning. It’s something we should make a habit.
How is social media treating you? Are you still getting the same value out of it? Could your activities use a fresh spring cleaning? Have you ever experienced Information Overload? Tell me your story in the comments. If I get some good enough conversation going, I’ll assemble them into a post for my Posterous page to share with the world!