Facebook profile deleted. Twitter account deleted. LinkedIn has been spared for professional use.
I cannot deny that Twitter in particular has been a powerful tool. Every day the best minds in the UX/IA, Content Strategy, and Educational Technology fields shared their knowledge and invaluable learning resources. Following individuals from the iSchool at UW, I could learn about their varied interests: clean water initiatives, open government, social media trends.
Recently, a fellow Twit informed me that I had a too-long account handle: retweeting and crediting my thoughts or links took up a lot of space. This individual did not bother to follow me, either, as I was not adding much value with my tweets (and I am more or less obsessed with adding value).
Given those facts, I reconsidered my social media use. And once I began thinking, I concluded its use had also changed my information consumption in negative ways:
Sharing took precedence over creating. My Tweetstream or Facebook news feed always had some new tidbit or opinion on a current issue. I consumed these nuggets insatiably, rather than synthesizing a worldview. I became an increasingly lazy thinker.
These tools encourage reacting, not relating. Online posting feels safe, conducted from one’s home office, even when it is not anonymous. Discussions are unmoderated, have a low barrier to entry, and text conveys tone poorly. It is too easy to respond to a link with another link. I worried how that could be affecting my real-world discourse.
People online are so…human. Follow anyone for 24 hours a day on Twitter and he is bound to sound like a jerk at some point. I was surprised how many public figures throw Twitter tantrums (Twantrums?) about frustrations with air travel delays. I can now “follow” these figures through RSS feeds of their very smart blogs instead.
Privacy meant opting out. I was tired of reading about – then reviewing and managing – the privacy settings on the newest Facebook feature. Twitter was less worrisome, though it offers binary account settings: public or private are the two choices. Frankly, there is very little legal protection for the average person regarding the use of information shared online, though developments in Germany may point to legislative changes in the future.
Since this is a blog about managing information, I felt compelled to examine my failure to integrate social media into a personal information management strategy. At least for a time, I have to take a break from social media, which I perceived to negatively influence my information consumption. The costs of using Twitter or Facebook for personal reasons outweigh the benefits to me right now. It is back to Google Reader I go.
I would be grateful for others’ opinions about the uses of social media (in a personal capacity) in the comments.