Colin Walker

on social media, tech, blogging and the internet.

Take time out – gain perspective.

PerspectiveHaving not blogged or been involved in any significant way with social media for a week it’s been interesting to note the way my attitudes have changed, not just while away on holiday but also before that. It has been surprising to see how much can change in such a short time.

I’m no sure if it’s connected to all of the Twitter downtime but my online behaviour has altered recently and my usage on the service has reduced significantly. When you’re on holiday, however, you really notice that you use a service like Twitter as it was originally intended to operate; you find yourself just giving quick status updates rather than trying to use it as a full communication tool – 140 character limitations and all.

Once you strip away desktop clients and the like and are just using a mobile phone then you can’t conduct meaningful conversations in that kind of environment with limited updates and a small screen. It has been interesting to watch how my behaviour has altered and, now that I am at this point, I can’t see myself going back to using Twitter as a full messaging system.

The level of the banality on such a service – even when you are choosing your ‘friends’ carefully – is also driving me away to the point where I will most likely not be using Twitter to interact but just to give status updates including new post notifications – they are after all just something else you are sharing saying “this is what I’ve been up to”.

What is spam?

The nature of what we refer to as spam as the service has evolved has altered and you will be criticised or even unfollowed if all you do is post blog notifications. Because people are now using Twitter differently to how is was envisaged it is almost unacceptable to just give status messages – I can’t help but feel that this is wrong.

As Alexander says, Social Media is about interaction and I now intend to focus my time on tools which allow me to do this more comprehensively; the best of the bunch currently being FriendFeed.

It has also been interesting to observe my opinions to the ‘conversation’. I was only away for a few days – and tried to keep an eye on things using FFtogo – but it seemed as though very little was actually happening whereas I would normally feel like a normal day on FriendFeed could get pretty busy. The only real discussion that caught my attention was around the “FriendFeed Likes Compatibility Index” – using commonalities between FriendFeed likes as a way to identify other users that you may be interested in following.

Now, I’m sure that the few days weren’t as quiet as they seemed but that it is more likely to be due to distancing myself from the conversation. Because the direct participation is limited it could well be that this lack of participation triggers a sense that things just aren’t as important as they would be were you immersed in the conversation. Involvement in something gives a feeling of investment in, and to a degree ownership of, a discussion.

Drift

The further you drift away from the conversation the harder it is to become enthusiastic about the direction it takes and this is the curse of social media: it is addictive in the sense that you need to keep an involvement in order to maintain an overview and monitor the breadth of conversation rather than trying to control it in one location. Conversations will occur wherever there are people – this is not going to change so people just have to get used to it. This distribution of the discussion is what’s really important; you are exposing a potentially greater audience to the conversation and allowing it to take twists that otherwise it wouldn’t take.

There will always be a gulf between those who see social media as a throw-away time killer that you can just dip in to and those who dive headlong in to the murky waters of the social media circus. Those who advocate services like Facebook are just in it for fun – they establish a ‘friend’ list, post on each others walls, play a few games and just provide basic status updates.

Facebook and its ilk, however, does not lend itself to more meaningful conversation. We need systems where conversations can spin out from a central point and take on a life of their own. We need systems with a greater level of interaction between members rather than with the site. We need systems where we can take ideas and communicate them effectively.

What we must always remember, however, is that the conversation will go on without you regardless of who you are. People will still have ideas and discussion will still develop around those ideas. If even Robert Scoble disappeared off the face of the planet for a week Twitter wouldn’t stop, FriendFeed wouldn’t stop – who you are is irrelevant. It may be argued that the exposure of any given conversation may be limited due to Scoble’s thousands of followers not getting to see it and this may be the case but how many of those followers actually get involved in the conversations?

Yes, we appear to have an echo chamber but this is an unintentional circumstance and not entirely the fault of those involved. With FriendFeed likes exposing items to a wider audience via the friend of a friend system the scope exists for a far greater number to get involved but the percentage of those that do is small. Out of Scoble’s thousands of followers you only ever see the same names cropping up as getting involved in the conversation and the same names dominate the FriendZone charts of FriendFeed users. This is not because of any elitist exclusion policy but because of a lack of involvement by others outside of the usual suspects.

Why is this?

Do some feel intimated and not able to participate? Are conversation threads seen as private members’ clubs with a strict door policy? Or is it just that there is only a finite number of individuals who actually want to be involved?

The problems that Twitter has been experiencing and the subsequent rush to Plurk show that a significant number of social media users are only after the quick connections that these types of services offer rather than wanting to become embroiled in deep conversation. Even when FriendFeed numbers increased significantly in recent times it is most likely that those joining did so due to disillusionment with Twitter rather than out of a desire to use the service and consequently will be predominately inactive.

The social media path we travel is determined by our goals – what we want to get out of the services we use; those services will, themselves, also be determined by our needs which is why there is always room for different types of network.

Over to you

What is your path and how often do you re-assess your social media goals?

Image by Natalia Osiatynska.

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June 2, 2008 - Posted by | Social Media |

14 Comments »

  1. I agree with “a lack of involvement by others outside of the usual suspects” and that may be a sign that social media is not maturing as quickly as it could (compared to where we think it should be) or that most people haven't found a way to conveniently work it in (assuming they have an interest in the first place). If social media is part of your job then it is much easier to keep up with the conversations and participate in conversations that go into greater analysis.

    I've been thinking a lot about defining goals that will allow me to focus on class and move ahead in the social media sphere. It will certainly be a trial and error, one big experiment for now, kind of approach. Eventually anyone who puts in time will hit a work flow that is unique to their circumstances.

    Comment by Julian Baldwin | June 2, 2008 | Reply

  2. […] Colin Walker had a great, philosophical post on taking time out from social media to gain perspective. While on […]

    Pingback by Taking a Breather From Social Media? Maybe We’re Doing It Wrong | sarahintampa | June 3, 2008 | Reply

  3. In response to your final question. I think that the reassessment is constant – and often unnoticed – just as it is in conversation. There's a fine line, however, between continuing your path when you receive no feedback and going a direction you don't believe in just to get a response/rise out of people. It's the same thing that artists and musicians have battled for ages. Not to say that we are artists of the same kind as they, but there is something to be said for the poet-esque role that we find ourselves in as it relates to this ongoing new media discovery. (Sorry if that was a bit high-minded).

    Comment by Ryan | June 2, 2008 | Reply

  4. Not at all Ryan – that is a great way to look at it.

    Comment by colinwalker | June 3, 2008 | Reply

  5. […] bBoth Colin Walker and Sarah in Tampa are both talking about taking some time off from the always-on social media […]

    Pingback by Time Out: Gaining Perspective and Fighting Social Media Burnout : The Last Podcast | June 3, 2008 | Reply

  6. […] today all related to the effect social media has on the tech elite. Colin Walker kicks it of with a well written essay, followed by Sarah Perez and Frederic over at the last Podcast. Each of them has had the pleasure […]

    Pingback by Social Media is timely, get over it « Alexander van Elsas’s Weblog on new media & technologies and their effect on social behavior | June 3, 2008 | Reply

  7. i think (like you've rightly said) that its a question of intent. So I'd disagree on Facebook not lending itself to meaningful conversation. Yes, its definitely not twitter like conversations, but (for example)it does help one identify other people with similar interests and open up a lot of discussions thanks to that categorising. Where the conversation goes later depends on the users, and in that sense its platform independent…..so its conversation, but of a different kind..

    Comment by manuscrypts | June 3, 2008 | Reply

  8. […] Take time out – gain perspective. “The further you drift away from the conversation the harder it is to become enthusiastic about the direction it takes and this is the curse of social media: it is addictive in the sense that you need to keep an involvement in order to maintain an overview and monitor the breadth of conversation rather than trying to control it in one location. Conversations will occur wherever there are people – this is not going to change so people just have to get used to it. This distribution of the discussion is what’s really important; you are exposing a potentially greater audience to the conversation and allowing it to take twists that otherwise it wouldn’t take.“ […]

    Pingback by 080603 Daily Links (June 03, 2008) Daily Must-Reads for Recruiters | johnsumser.com: Recruiting News and Views | June 3, 2008 | Reply

  9. if you pay attention to the self, everything falls in to place perfectly.. if you pay attention to all of this stuff, catastrophe .. and doing the former, all this stuff is merely a river and not a problem

    Comment by gregory | June 3, 2008 | Reply

  10. I think that you have to apply an activity downtime, it renews your enthusiasm and it also refreshes your outlook. I am not half as active as most of you, neither do I attract the traffic but when I went away on holiday recently I had renewed energy! Going back to Ryan's comment on music artists and Green Day are a good example of trying to redefine themselves. I read in NME that they often undertake other projects which in turn give them the angle to produce an album they are proud to put their name to! It's all about identity and finding the common ground!!

    Comment by Joe Dawson | June 5, 2008 | Reply

  11. Nice photo ; )

    And a thought-provoking article. Incidentally, I found it when someone I know Googled me and pointed it out. Because you used—and credited; thanks!—a photo of mine which I “freed” for such purposes by assigning it a Creative Commons license. Where was it—on Flickr.

    I agree with you on the importance of dialogue, particularly when it can be meaningful and purposeful. Facebook is lost on me. Flickr is changing my life. And no, the hours I've spent on it don't cut into my social life; rather, they've been time put into shaping much of it.

    Thanks man, and best of luck!

    Comment by Natalia Osiatynska | June 9, 2008 | Reply

  12. Agreed – Facebook just doesn't cut it.

    Yes the image was on Flickr – thanks for making it available.

    Comment by colinwalker | June 9, 2008 | Reply

  13. Great post! Your points are exactly why, I'm only connected during certain times of the day and week — it's just too much and often times you can feel overwhelmed and lose touch with the “social” in social media.

    Maria Reyes-McDavis

    Comment by Web Success Diva | June 19, 2008 | Reply

  14. […] great post by Colin Walker on the importance and need for all those head-deep in social media to take a step back, take a break, and gain perspective. It’s all in the […]

    Pingback by Internet Marketing Links Round Up for June 23, 2008 | June 23, 2008 | Reply


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