To be a bit contrarian is just in my genes, so I thought I'd take a minute to consider the value proposition and the challenges of social media. Right now it appears that most people who are active on Twitter or Facebook or other social networking and social media sites think that for the most part these are good and valuable services. I am beginning to wonder if that is true.
For those of us who are relatively active on blogs, and who use social networks like Linkedin, and who ocassionally tweet when the spirit moves us, there is a lot going on in social media that ought to be paid attention to. Many points of view, many perspectives and many voices. I can use Twitter as a trend spotting mechanism on just about any topic. I can seamlessly connect with colleagues and friends across so many different interaction media that sometimes just choosing the right way to connect can be a challenge.
Yet in a time when we need the methodologies created by David Allen to "Get Things Done" and a new book called the Tyranny of Email has just been published, doesn't it strike you that we are almost under assault by all the means of connection and networking? I regularly have people connect with me on Twitter I don't know and am relatively sure don't understand my point of view. I am regularly asked to "link" with people on LinkedIn or other social networks, and I don't know these folks. It could be they are the best in their fields, but I don't want to create links with people I don't know and don't share significant interests with.
Are we really better off with Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instant Messaging, email and a host of other interaction tools and technologies? Certainly there's no lack of content. In a given day thousands of tweets are tagged with innovation as an example, so clearly a lot of people believe they have a lot to say or contribute. But how do we discern value in all of this firehose of communication? Is being more connected but less engaged really valuable? If many people struggle to respond appropriately to email, what are all the other communication vehicles doing to an attention starved populace? Is it really all that important to know what Ashton Kutcher thinks about Demi Moore or what he is doing right now?
We've become a population that is afraid to be "left out" - we need to know stuff that really has no value and to a certain extent we are at risk of filling our lives and brains with meaningless information at the expense of meaningful dialog and interactions. It's probably time for a careful analysis of all of the social networking tools and their places in our work lives and private lives, to ensure a balance between communication, understanding and engagement. If people are too busy and feel too interrupted by email to think effectively, what will layering on all the other demands for your time from products like Twitter, Facebook, IM and other tools do? Can you live and work successfully in constant interrupt mode?