(Design: Mat Giordano)
"Each of us will belong to between 12 and 24 online and/or mobile communities by 2010, and our power to do good things and disrupt old industries will be unique and radiant." – David Silver, Smart Start-Ups
Reading this phrase recently made me wonder how many communities am I currently a part of? This was the tally I arrived at:
* Propeller: the Student Portal I manage at Full Sail.
* Last.FM: to share the music I listen, so can find… more new music to listen.
* Twitter: to share what I do in a micro-blog fashion (allows 140-character long posts).
* Flickr: where I share my photos and comment on friends’ photos.
* YouTube: I mean, who doesn’t know YouTube?
* LinkedIn: for business purposes.
* Del.icio.us: to share interesting web sites I run into.
* Digg: allows me to "vote" on links, though at times it gets a little annoying.
* MySpace: to listen to music, once in a while.
* Facebook: starting to warm up to it, but really not something I am on constantly.
* TuDiabetes: a community for those affected by diabetes that I founded and manage on a daily basis.
* Amazon.com: people can now comment on other people's reviews.
* Kinzin: a social network for families.
That makes for 13 communities that I participate in on a regular basis! So, I begin to wonder: how much is too much? After all, all of these online communities do add something to my life in one way or another, don’t they? Or is it possible I may be letting other things pass by the side by spending too much time online?
Social Networking Fatigue and Other Online Ailments
A while back, I was filling up my tank at a nearby gas station and noticed an ad above the pump that said: "Has 'Pay at the pump' made us lonelier people?" and went on to invite you to hop in to talk to the cashier once in a while, instead of always using your card to pay outside.
That little message stuck with me. In today's social media environment, we claim to have more "friends", yet how many people do we really get to talk to, how many folks could we claim we really know. Not too many: like a comment on this post said, "... having friends is about not just sharing information, but responding uniquely and interacting with said friend."
Is the solution to unplug ourselves in order to deal with the Social Networking Fatigue that comes from dealing with hundreds of people? Should we go cold turkey and erase our names from the Social Networks of the world (good luck with getting Google to wipe you out!)?
That may be a bit extreme, because we’d loose the real opportunity that these tools give us to connect or reconnect with the people we can't physically stay in touch with. But, in general, we have lost some of that "touch" that things used to have.
Remember the movie Cars? The whole organic experience that Route 66 used to bring to the lives of travelers was substituted by the speed that the Interstate brought to their trips, getting them quicker to where they were going to, but loosing them the chance to really connect with others during their trip through the Southwest desert.
I don’t think there’s any going to go back to our pre-online times (nor does it make sense), but next time you realize it’s been hours since you last spoke to someone, turn off the monitor, grab your keys and go pump gas somewhere. Just remember to say "Hi!" to the guy inside when you do! ;)