There’s No Reason To Feel Overwhelmed
Several high profile bloggers have been complaining lately about too much noise from the blogosphere, from microblogging, and from the social web in general.
I always find it funny when people say things like “there are too many blogs.” That’s missing the point entirely. Are there too many telephones? Too many Twitter users? Too many email addresses? All of these things (blogs included) actually become more useful with more participants.
If you feel overwhelmed by something like too many blogs, you have no one to blame but yourself. We are in total control of how high the volume is set.
Here’s why you should never feel overwhelmed, and how to help if you do feel this way:
You are in control how many RSS feeds you read
Do you constantly have hundreds or even thousands of unread stories in your reader? You’re subscribed to too many blogs – there is a limit to how much content you can consume in a week and still assimilate it all mentally. Scale down to only what is absolutely essential. Time is the most precious resource, don’t always subscribe to new blogs just because they are there – take the time to read through the author’s previous posts before adding the site to your reader. Only subscribe if you decide the content is absolutely unmissable. If everyone started unsubscribing to blogs that are churning out useless content and subscribed purely to sites that were carefully publishing thought provoking stuff, we could collectively force improvements at a macro level.
You choose who you follow on FriendFeed/Twitter
There is no rule that says you must follow everyone who follows you. Robert Scoble and Chris Brogran follow tens of thousands, but their whole lives are centered around being connectors in social media, it’s actually a part of their job description. Also, these sites are not about numbers, they are about forging connections. In fact, I do not put my social web links on my blog’s sidebar on purpose (they are on my contact page) as I only want people to friend me in external networks who actually want to forge a connection. Only people genuinely interested in connecting will go that extra step to connect, and this eliminates those trying to artificially inflate their numbers. Having less, but more relevant connections is what makes social media useful – more is not always better.
Use the tools to filter out the noise
I have many friends who don’t keep their own blog, but subscribe to blogs, use Digg/Reddit/StumbleUpon, comment, vote/share stories, and are here to learn and interact as consumers of information. They are extremely smart and use the tools available to filter out the noise and get only the content that matters to them. Anyone complaining about the noise on the web hasn’t yet created an effective system for themselves to get only the content that is vital to them personally. I almost never hear complaints from content consumers, only bloggers that there’s too much noise.
Everything is archived
If you do miss something, take a vacation, or simply don’t have time to stay on top of your favorite sites for a few days, never fear. Everything your favorite bloggers publish is easily archived for reference later on. We’re not like newspapers – we don’t change link structures, take down stories, or make old stuff hard to find. Relax, it’s not going anywhere if you can’t get to it today.
Do you feel overwhelmed by the social web? It may often seem like a cacophony, sure – but to me that is half the fun. There are always new perspectives to read, new sites to discover, and a seemingly infinite stream of good (and also not so good) ideas. We’re getting better daily at sorting the junk from the relevant, but relevancy is all subjective anyway.
Setting up both crowd-powered and automated content filtering is necessary, but you should also not be closed off to ideas and sites outside the network you build. Personally, I view the entire spectrum of the social web as an amazing sociological experiment to observe, study and be a part of. I always feel the opposite of overwhelmed when taking a step back and looking at the bigger picture, I feel open to possibility.
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It’s Time To Transform (Being Peter Kim)
The High Cost Of Now (Seth Godin)
Not Sure Who To Follow? (Six Pixels Of Separation)