Most things in life, left unchecked, tend to fall into chaos. I find this particularly true regarding the number and quality of the updates I receive through social networks. The problem is that we’ve become desensitized to the value of our own time, and we continue to add new Facebook friends or follow people on Twitter without closing off some of the existing network.
Imagine a pack permanently strapped to your back. For every new connection on Twitter or Facebook, small stones of various sizes get deposited into your pack. Eventually, over time, the pack will reach a point where it becomes too heavy or can’t hold all the stones. The stones represent your online connections, with sizes proportional to the amount of information they post. The weight of the pack is the amount of your energy it takes to manage all of those connections. If we were physically laden with the weight of our own social networks, most people would start trimming.
However, slimming down your network is difficult, and there is no physical toll for connecting with thousands of different people. In addition, aside from the emotional elements at play, cutting down on your network often means reducing that very prominent number of current followers or friends. That damn little number, in addition to our own instinct to avoid loss whenever possible, often makes any attempt to prune a network less successful than it could have been.
To help myself keep things simple and manageable, I have two questions, one for Twitter and one for Facebook, I ask myself when attempting to cut back my online network:
- Twitter: Has the individual’s last few tweets been A.) of personal interest to me or B.) provided me with some form of insight I would not have gotten elsewhere? If the answer to either of these questions is “no” more than a few times, I unfollow the account right then and there.
- Facebook: Is my Facebook connection with this person the primary and only method I have of contacting them? If the answer is “yes,” then I reconsider whether we should remain connected online; the argument being that I always have more than one way to contact real friends or family members. If I never see or interact with someone I consider a “friend” on Facebook, yet give them access to all my information, it may be time to remove them from my friends list.
It’s not easy to cut back connections on either network, and often a misplaced sense of sentimentalism will show up to make the whole process even more difficult, but the benefits of a clearer mind and less social noise are worth the effort.
—Wednesday, 18 December 2013