Written by Karen D. Swim
The other day I received an email notification that one of my Twitter followers was no longer following me. I clicked through to the follower’s twitter page and the most recent tweet (message) indicated that he was changing his twitter account un-following everyone and only following those who could have a direct impact on his business.
I was not offended by the un-follow but questioned the strategy. Is it possible to know who will impact our business? Human relationships are not linear so it is impossible to predict the trajectory of an interaction with someone you consider “unessential.” One of the benefits of having a broad social network, online or offline is the access to people beyond our immediate circle of influence. A social network like Twitter affords you the opportunity to be visible to a broad, diverse group and all those who follow them. That is both the benefit and the problem.
The interactions suddenly swell to a high level of noise and you look for ways to tone down the volume. Some are like me and simply take the occasional break from online interactions. Others may un-follow or quit networks altogether. Many have chosen to limit the interaction by shutting off their Facebook Wall or Blog Comments. Those who have a true need/desire can simply send a message or email.
With the rise of social networks we ripped the lid from Pandora’s box and unleashed a beast whose tentacles reach far and wide. As we choke on the glut of social interaction, we begin to question our previous adoration of those shiny new tools. Is it too late to tame this social beast?
The reality is we really do need people. We require some level of interaction in our personal and professional lives. Unfortunately, we cannot control how people choose to interact with us, or respond to us when we try to establish boundaries.
My advice is to look carefully before you leap into any social network. The honeymoon period will come to an end and you will be left with a relationship to manage. Is it worth your long term commitment?
Are you among the socially fatigued? How are you managing the balance?
- Pandora’s box
- Shannon Paul – How to Participate in Social Media Without Being That Guy
- Beth Kanter – Tips on Managing Multi-Memberships in Social Networks
Karen Swim says
@Jane, I think that in this new world, fatigue is inevitable particularly for early adopters. We still have so much to learn and the temptation to discover, explore and connect are too great to pass up. I think that over time we will “settle in” and pare down the places we play and the level of activity.
Jane Chin says
I experienced tremendous social fatigue during the weeks leading up to, and after the election, and as a result became less active on the network where I frequented the most (Plurk) and more active on one where I haven’t made as many connections yet (Twitter).
I do go through my follow/friends list and remove people whose conversations I hardly or barely participate in, or if their subject matter isn’t something I’m focusing on at the moment. Given my limited attention span, it’s more of a time/attention management approach than “who can give me business, and when”.
Karen Swim says
Deb, I have a few miles on my speedometer too so completely understand! That is great advice! I have talked with many of the people I’ve met online and it definitely forges a deeper bond. Even a private talk on Skype or Gtalk has really helped to form deeper friendships.
Karen Swim says
Hi Barb! I love Ann and any friend of hers is more than welcome here! Aw shucks you’d be welcome anyway but I really do love Ann! I It is a balance, isn’t it? I’m starting to make more use of tools to ease that feeling of overwhelm, like TweetBeep to keep up with alerts and Fuser to merge inboxes. We’re not alone in our overwhelm and thankfully tools are being created that help with the management. I also am slowly accepting that I can’t do it all and that’s okay. There are days that I simply have to hit Mark All as Read in my reader, clearing it out removes my guilt. I have more than 200 blogs in my reader and that’s after I eliminated more than 100.
Beware, I’m going to follow you on Twitter too! 🙂
I’m relatively new to this social networking phenomena – and I love it! I’m no spring chicken and learned a long time ago that I need to keep balance in my life, or I’ll go crazy. I’m also a people person. So as I explore blogs, twitter, linkedin and facebook – sooner rather than later I set up an appointment to have an actual conversation with someone. You’d be amazed at the number of people who really want to talk!
Keep writing and informing, it is appreciated.
Barb Chamberlain says
I found your blog thanks to a link from http://www.annhandley.com, and it’s wonderful.
This post really resonates for me. I set out to learn more about social media, having been a fairly early adopter in my geographical community on LinkedIn (and I work in communications so I darn well better understand social media).
I started reading blogs like Chris Brogan, learning some of the norms, getting into Facebook and Twitter.
I’m a congenital networker no matter what kind of space I’m in, and I share your philosophy that meaningful connections are valuable whether there’s some kind of “monetizable ROI” evident or not. Personally, I don’t follow any of my followers whose pages on Twitter show that all their tweets consist of self-promo.
I’ve been spending a lot of time on Twitter in particular, I have too many unread blogs in Google Reader and am starting to winnow, and I’ve reached the point where I need to restore balance. At the same time, I’m starting some social media efforts for work, so it will be a challenge.
Here’s a tab for your browser that may help if you’re working on balance–I’ve shared it in various places: http://www.merlinmann.com/rightnow/
Barb Chamberlains last blog post..Married name(s)
Karen Swim says
Nadine, you’re right. We all find ourselves spending time offline and it’s such a joy when our online times intersect. I think we’re all learning too that fine art of balance, sometimes one area suffers as we give attention where needed.
I am having such fun with NaNo and looking forward to reporting my progress at the end. 🙂
Nadine Touzet says
I saw a similar update on Twitter last week, and there was a sign that someone had gone from my network. Maybe the same person?
I have been very quiet online in recent weeks, because I have a lot of work that requires me to be out of the house, with little access to the Internet; or indoors, and I need to concentrate on what I’m doing. My blog is suffering, for that very reason.
However, I’m not retiring from social networks. On the contrary, I’m pleased to see that the people I have interacted with seem to be on a similar course as mine. Because of that, I enjoy even more the rare times when our paths intersect.
I’m so thrilled about your novel…
Karen Swim says
@ Steph, balance is definitely the key! I think writers excel at finding ways to procrastinate so we may be at a higher risk of wasting time. 🙂 The tools can be wonderful when used with caution.
@Lillie, you have built a wonderful community through blogging and commenting and blogs are part of social media. You chose one tool and have maximized it, and I think that’s very smart.
@Joanna, I absolutely agree. Ann Handley wrote an excellent article on Marketing Profs that deftly explains digital natives. You are right we cannot put this genie back in the bottle, and if you are a business it’s more important than ever to understand new media marketing.
@Brad, I love these tools and enjoy teaching companies how to develop a strategy that includes new media marketing. Every tool has a downside and I think we are all still discovering, making mistakes along the way and writing the book as we go.
@Janice, yes! The tail should never wag the dog. You are a smart woman and we should all keep that phrase in mind or we risk having the machines take over. Accck! 🙂
@Melissa I can totally relate! I am overwhelmed and exhausted and looking forward to the end of the month. Hang in there, finish line in sight.
@Heather, sadly you’re right. I am always referring, connecting and people often don’t know. It does illuminate an interesting point – we may not know what we’re missing by making short sighted decisions.
@Jamie, cycle very accurately portrays it, sort of like any relationship. You meet, you’re excited you can’t get enough, then you begin to question your involvement, perhaps taking a step back, you realize how much you value the relationship and come back committed but with more balance. Yep, cycle. 🙂
@Ulla, great point! We are not forced to do these things, but choose to engage. Well said!
@Shannon, I think that’s the hardest things to come to grips with in this new media world – we can’t always keep up! Last week I cringed from the sound of my spinning plates crashing to the ground. I like your approach of re-framing how you participate. You really are a social media genius! 🙂
@Andrew, very good point and you are participating in social media but have chosen the platform that fits you. Balance and fit are really important in my opinion.
Whilst this man may be taking a somewhat limited outlook toward his online interaction, I do understand his viewpoint, and understand why he would feel the need to re-priorities his online relationships.
Personally, this is one reason why I have so far shunned the traditional social networking sites altogther and am focusing predominately upon two online forrums which focus on the topic of Corporate Social Responsibility, which for me is very close to my topic of business ethics.
It’s early days yet but I am finding that these forrums not only provide a great way for me to interact with people who, like me, are interested in my topic, but it is proving a great way for me to expand and broaden my perspectives in relation to the topic which I have chosen to blog about.
Shannon Paul says
I’ve experienced a period of rapid expansion of my network lately and I’ll admit that I have had a difficult time keeping up. I’ve had to come to accept the fact that I simply cannot respond to every @ reply on Twitter — or even every direct message sometimes. I can’t even respond to most of the comments on my own blog sometimes.
Rather than give up on my network, I make choices to participate differently than I did before. I make more of an effort to comment on other peoples’ posts than to simply engage with them on my own turf and i make more of an effort to promote their work. I can’t do it all, but I try to make sure that my efforts support others where it benefits them most.
Also, Karen, thanks for the link back — I really appreciate it — you are such a gem. I’m so glad you’re here. 🙂
Shannon Pauls last blog post..Comments are not ads
Ulla Hennig says
I am on Twitter and I never regretted it. When I have a lot of other work to do I reduce the time for tweeting. Twitter has led me to a lot of interesting blogs (and persons) – and I would not have met your blog without following Joanna Young on Twitter. I don’t do facebook and linkedin, because I don’t need it. I have subscribed to a number of rss feeds, but at first I read the title and then I decide whether to read the post directly on the web or to delete the feed in my reader.
And one motto for me is: I don’t “have to” tweet, or to read blogs, or to comment – I do it because I want to (or I don’t do it).
Ulla Hennigs last blog post..Bavarian Abbey or the Art of Zen
Jamie Grove - How Not To Write says
This seems like a fairly common cycle. People get into these networks and then they allow themselves to get pulled in so deeply that they end up wasting huge amounts of time and blame the network for their lack of productivity.
I know because I’ve done it too.
It takes time, not to mention trial and failure, to learn how social media impacts your life. At first people believe that every connection in the social sphere has to be über meaningful but over time they learn that loose connections have a power of their own and that maintaining them is an art in and of itself.
Jamie Grove – How Not To Writes last blog post..How to Use Your Excuses to Fuel Your Writing: A NaNoWriMo Profile
Karen Swim says
Hey Everyone! I am not socially fatigued just the regular kind! LOL! I did not want to let all of your great comments go unanswered today. This has been a week where everyone who said maybe later all year, needed everything in this week. Between that and NaNo, I’m dead! But, I shall read, savor and respond tomorrow. Great comments here and I’m so thankful for the discussion and for all of you! You’re all beautiful and I love ya! 😉
Heather Gardner says
Sounds that your un-follower is an idiot 🙂 for not wanting to continue to follow YOU!
It’s kind of short sighted to dump someone because they don’t fall into the catagory of affecting business- who knows, next year “could” change and you “could” become someone that “could” impact his business. And geez, who knows, someone in your network could have affect his business this year…. but since he removed you from his follow list we’ll never know…..
Melissa Donovan says
I am among the fatigued but not the socially fatigued. In fact, I need to get back into Twitter and Facebook. With NaNo and the new site, I haven’t had time to socialize online very much lately.
Some folks like to keep business and personal stuff separate. I’m not sure that’s the best way because as you said, you never know what any given connection will lead to.
Melissa Donovans last blog post..How to Write a Complex Villian (Writing Exercise)
Janice Cartier says
If I even tried to keep up with all that, my creative time would sink to zilch…but it is true, everyone needs a social strategy. Not in a manipulative way, but as a way of being connected on line or off. Of being in the world.
I just think, like 24/7 news do we need all that noise? Does it add to the quality of life? Or business.
So I think any social strategy has to be customized to fit, nicely…I mean the tail should never wag the dog, should it?
Janice Cartiers last blog post..Hi Ho Hi Ho
Brad Shorr says
Karen, This problem of social media overload is a puzzler. Lately I’ve tried the approach of less breadth and more depth. I’m trying to build up lots of Twitter relationships, because as you say, you never know where a great connection will be found. But, I’ve walked away from Plurk and a couple other Twitter-like networks. The more I use Facebook, the better I like it. If I had not tried to “go deep”, I never would have understood the value of this site.
Brad Shorrs last blog post..Use the Economic Slump to Retool for Success
Joanna Young says
Karen, in the main I feel energized by my social media networks, friendships and connections, but I do feel troubled by those who report getting fatigued and overwhelmed by it.
Trouble is there are no easy answers, the genie isn’t going to go back into the bottle. We need to work out our own strategies for making it work for us, in a business and personal sense.
Joanna Youngs last blog post..Inbox or FeedReader: The Results of a Reading Experiment
Lillie Ammann says
I am a social media dummy and intend to stay that way. I get impatient with many of the silly things I get from Facebook and LinkedIn just by having profiles there. In spite of all the raves I’ve heard about Twitter, the thought just boggles my mind. But I agree that we need contact with people. I do that through blogging and commenting. I admire people who can keep up with all the other stuff, but I can’t.
This is funny because I just deleted a bunch of blogs I’d been subscribed to (down to about 25 now and that still feels like a lot), though it had nothing to do with whether or not they comment on my blog or anything like that and everything to do with simplifying.
Even though I haven’t done twitter or any other thing like that (I have Facebook and a Linked In profile though I never use it), I still feel unable to keep up. I don’t have the discipline at all to work with all the socializing I do online. I know it’s because I work from home and often feel starved for contact. But it’s become an obsession. I’m aware of it, and feel the need to unplug because it’s actually starting to scare me. I realize I wake up, sit down at this laptop, and do nothing else until I go to sleep. I try to get some work in, of course, but it’s not nearly as much as I should be doing.
You’re totally right: we need people. We are relational beings. But when it gets to the point of addiction or jeopardizing your productivity, I have to say, cutting back can be a very good and relieving thing.