Networked: How Much is Too Much?

Update: I was prompted to revisit this post, originally written in June of 2007, after I read a great entry written by Dr. Casado, titled “El Que Segmenta, Gana” (The person who segments, wins).

Also relevant to this topic, the post from earlier in 2011 “10 ways to clean up your Twitter feed“.



(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. (2011 Update: no longer working there)
  • Last.FM: to share the music I listen, so can find… more new music to listen (2011 Update: left it in 2009, when Last.FM sold out)
  • Twitter: to share what I do in a micro-blog fashion (2011 Update: I share but I also listen a lot… it’s a great tool to stay on top of topics you care about by NOT following a ton of people)
  • Flickr: where I share my photos and comment on friends’ photos (2011 Update: still use it but gradually less and less)
  • YouTube: I mean, who doesn’t know YouTube? (2011 Update: fairly active member, mostly contributing content and featuring other people’s content)
  • LinkedIn: for business purposes. (2011 Update: one of the top networking resources I use)
  • to share interesting web sites I run into (2011 Update: very rarely use it. Have found Evernote to be just as useful)
  • Digg: allows me to “vote” on links, though at times it gets a little annoying (2011 Update: I still have an account or two, but I almost never go there)
  • MySpace: to listen to music, once in a while (2011 Update: … rings a bell…)
  • Facebook: starting to warm up to it, but really not something I am on constantly (2011 Update: I have warmed up to it… and use it daily, so do nearly 700 million people around the world)
  • TuDiabetes: the social network for people touched by diabetes in English that we founded in 2007. Now it has  more than 20,000 members.
  • people can now comment on other people’s reviews (2011 Update: I continue to occasionally write a review, but I can no longer dedicate much time to it, as I used to a few years ago)
  • Kinzin: a social network for families (2011 Update: no longer a member + they are no longer a family-oriented, but a group-oriented photo-sharing site)

New communities, from June 2007 until June 2011:

  • EsTuDiabetes: when I wrote this article, we still hadn’t started EsTuDiabetes, our social network for people touched by diabetes in Spanish, now with almost 14,000 members.
  • Quora: I was VERY excited about it at the beginning of the year. I still think it has potential, but I haven’t found it to be useful for a lot of the things I would use it for. This is to say I have gotten very little value out of it so far.
  • Yelp: since I moved to the Bay Area, it has become a must-use resource to help choose places to eat, car shops, you name it!
  • SlideShare: a fantastic resource for sharing and embedding documents and presentations.
  • UStream: a monthly user in connection with Video-Chat sessions we host on EsTuDiabetes. Now it integrates beautifully into networks on Ning.
  • Wikipedia: I know it may sound like an odd “community” to list, but behind the troves of articles there is a vibrant community that I have made an effort to contribute to as part of the lessons I learned las year.
  • Ping: Apple’s half-rear-ended approach to do what LaLa used to do. I basically just “Like” songs once in a while to share them via Twitter here and there…

In 2007, I was a member of 13 communities where I participated in on a regular basis! Fast forward to 2012, the number is… (drumroll)… 13! Not much as changed, huh? I guess the level of engagement has changed and having a clear idea of what each community/network is for, realizing that you get what you put into it.


(from this point on, the post is the same as in 2007)

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! 😉