Social media overload. How do I choose, what to use?

Athena shares with gemaker the social media technology that collides and harmonizes her daily activities.

I have a message on the ubiquitous email from my brother, “Check out my stuff on Pinterest, Enjoy the fun”

Another invitation to pour my time into another social media outlet. Is this the best use of my time?

I see social media as a way of keeping up with my world, and the world at large. That is, social media enhances the time I spend with people, rather than detracts from it. I compare it to the days of having a penpal.  In the true sense, this being a handwritten letter I would write to a pal. The letter would include interesting tidbits from my life, the news or newly learnt information that I thought they too would find entertaining. Sometimes those letters would have stickers or mementos to accompany them.   I see social media as being a ferocious penpal, allowing my pen to reach a bucket load of pals.

In the last two years, I have joined what now seems to be an endless list of services, beginning with Facebook. I was sick of missing out on the invites to events that my partner seemed to know about and I didn’t. Facebook became an easy way to keep in contact with interstate family and friends. Even my grandfather, at 78 years of age has an account.

Then came LinkedIn, and as I quickly realised this meant that I could find people in my professional network whose email addesses I had long lost through movements between jobs. This made my role as a business development manager smoother, a cold call less cold, opening up group discussions worldwide.

Google Reader changed my reading habits. I no longer sit and read the paper in the tearoom, but now, thanks to a clever app Feeddler back ending off google reader, I read from my iPad. I no longer receive countless emails for links to stories, and I can easily track what I have read and share it with others.

I found that my biggest addiction has been Instagram, where thanks to mobile technology and my love of pictures, I have a photo diary. This for me has been the most addictive utility of the lot. Being able to look at wonderful pictures, see what my friends are looking at and how they are they looking at the everyday in a different light.

Then came twitter and the ability to articulate in a fragmented sentence my thoughts and opinions on the articles I read, as well as learn in a second what others thought.  Since then I have found myself managing several twitter accounts and taking on several different personas to interact with different industry sectors.  Also, twitter is not a bad way to keep track of news events.

I soon found, even though I have all this social media to keep in contact with various networks, and accompanying mobile devices, it was still difficult to pin my friends to a location. My brother recommended I get on to “Find my friends”,  which allows to me to find people I want to locate on a map. To be honest, this has been limited to about 3 people I know, yet it has been one of the most useful.  Especially as those 3 people are terrible at giving directions.

So today, when I received yet another invite to another potentially time consuming social media service, I asked these questions from my invitee.

  • Do I need to be connected to one more?
  • What extra value will it bring to my life?

The answer came back very simply from my brother, “Join, so you can pin notes and ideas to my board”.  He has only very recently started collecting vinyl records, and wanted to use it as a means of identifying the music he wanted to purchase.  He saw this as a way of aggregating his choices and getting other people’s opinions.

The value proposition laid before me incited even more thoughts and questions.

The idea, that I would be pinning my interests to my brother’s board would mean we were also connected by a similar love of random objects that we found on the web. And I thought of the possibilities of how that might tie into my other social media services and who else could I entwine into my web.

I have found myself in the past luring other friends and colleagues across to what they previously considered the dark side. The dark side being the unknown, and the sense that the whole world would soon know about you, no longer leaving your private life as safe and secure, unchallenged.

I would soon have a million more images, new stories, new videos, sound bytes flashing at me. How could I possibly filter through it all and find something new and meaningful to me? Mark Pesce addresses this theme very well in his blog, where people themselves act as very good filters.

After working through my personal history of most of the social media platforms I have used, I am still yet to address that very first question… Is this the best use of my time?

The answer in this instance was… No, write this Insight instead, and share my experiences with you, the reader.

As at this point in time, with 6 active social media platforms in which I can communicate for play and work, I feel that I have reached my limit. With further evaluation of Pinterest, I really felt that it just duplicated my existing efforts with sharing information. However, this does not mean the door is closed on any other new technology or new networks, it just means that the next thing will need to offer something quite different or it do it much better.

I may perhaps share with my brother, on his notice board, another time.