Are You Overconnected?
In yet another thinky-making column in Wired…
(In passing, will we say “in” to describe a story being found “in” a publication for much longer? Won’t we soon go to saying it’s “on” because it’ll be more likely we’re thinking of a story being online – “in Wired” vs. “on Slate”? And will we come to a consensus on “story” vs. “column” vs. “post”? Will everything become “posts”?)
Anyway, Clive Thompson’s piece (compromise word choice!) is called “In Praise of Obscurity” and it’s about how having too many followers can ruin the whole point of what you gathered the followers for – conversation. Here’s what I liked best:
“When you go from having a few hundred Twitter followers to ten thousand, something unexpected happens: Social networking starts to break down….Â Â Not only do audiences feel estranged, the participants also start self-censoring…. Â If someone’s got 1.5 million followers… [t]here’s no pretense of intimacy with their audience, so there’s no conversation to spoil. Meanwhile, if you have a hundred followers, you’re clearly just chatting with pals. It’s the middle ground – when someone amasses, say, tens of thousands of followers – where the social contract of social media becomes murky.”
The social contract of social media. I love that concept.
“[B]eÂ connectedÂ with fewer people, but… be communicating with them, and not just talking at them.”
I’ve found limits that seem to work for me, and I very deliberately keep to them. I can follow about 300 people on Twitter. Many more than that, and I start losing the plot. It’s just too much to keep track of. On Facebook, I’ve categorized all of my friends into five groups, and found it tremendously helpful – differentiating professional contacts from family, for instance. Each group has different permissions on what they can see. It helped me get back a tight group of the people most important to me – without losing the larger group.
But I’ve been thinking a lot in recent weeks about this “social contract of social media”. I have a project in the works that I’m looking forward to. I think it’ll give me a lot of clarity on this, although that’s not the main purpose of it. More anon.