Spring Cleaning the Social Media Fire Hose

March 26, 2011 · 5 comments

in Social Media

Do you ever feel as if you have too much junk in your closet? I’m referring to the closet of your mind and the information you process every day when you log into your social stream and open your email.

Maybe it’s time to schedule a spring cleaning and reduce the pressure of your social media fire hose!

Fire Hose

The answer might be “yes” if you:

  • Get Facebook messages from groups you didn’t join or from people you don’t really know.
  • Receive daily notifications from LinkedIn groups that you automatically delete, or if you get invites to connect from people simply because you share a group and have nothing else in common.
  • Look at your Twitter and Facebook streams and wonder, “who is this person?”

If so…

Where do you begin?

Here’s my story of how I began this difficult spring cleaning chore…

I mentioned to my husband that I really wanted to do some spring cleaning and clear out stuff I don’t use but didn’t know where to start. He asked and suggested,

“What gives you the most stress? Start there.”

Stress begins the moment I set down to the computer and “log on!” The answer resulted in my quest to cut down the influx of information processed on a daily basis as a result of being involved in social media.

I began my quest on a rainy day spring Saturday by leaving Facebook and LinkedIn groups, changing email notification settings on others, and unfriending and unfollowing people I don’t really know.

Why?

My biggest stress is the overload of information I don’t find useful or don’t act upon, cluttering up my brain and taking attention away from what I do want to read, including zapping free time.

The decision to leave groups and unfriend people has been stressful in itself. But the following words from a long-time close friend resonate:

“Why are you spending so much of your energy with hundreds of people you don’t really know?

You’re the one who often talks about opportunity costs, and you’ve been complaining about not having time to ride your bike and do other stuff. Something always has to give.”

The advice of this good friend served as a mirror. What was I willing to give up?

After months of feeling like I don’t have time for things I really want to do, to master the things I want to become proficient in, I realized the opportunity costs were getting the better of me and I had to change – NOW! Many of you know I’ve been dealing with some health issues. I sleep more as a result. If I want to enjoy biking, hiking, writing, gardening, time with family, studying, reading and working full-time (plus) while running an SEO consultancy, then it’s time to guard the few spare hours left in a day.

This spring cleaning served as the difficult first steps to turn down the pressure of my social media fire hose to free up headspace and make time for what’s important. (And writing blog posts is one of those.) The spring cleaning exercise reminded me it’s time to get back my writing voice and share why I’ve made such changes.

Your Backyard

You’re in control of what comes into your yard, your personal space. You either control it, or you’ll be overwhelmed  by it.

Let’s take physical space and compare it to an etheral, online sense:

You are in your backyard. You have a table and chairs and your little space. You invite a few people over to chat. Others start showing up, talking about whatever. You welcome the first few and enjoy varied conversations.

But you didn’t shut the gate to the yard. More and more people come in. Later, hundreds of conversations are circling you at once. Your back yard is no longer a place to hang out with close friends, family and neighbors. Every time you walk outside, you are bombarded with megaphones of chatter. You stop going into your own yard as often as a result.

That’s the way I’ve felt with the growing size of my social networks. Oh, I LOVE the socialization and the sharing, but one can only hold so many conversations at one time and retain quality.

Quality Conversations

Inspiration

The following people have also served as “mirrors” and inspiration in their writings and attempts to shut down the influx of noise from social media:

Joanna Lord wrote, Finding My Voice: A Lesson Learned, in which she decided to stop allowing so much noise to surround her after asking herself:

“Am I doing what I should be doing?”
“Am I spending my time on the right things?”
“Am I being true to myself and the dreams I once dreamt?”

Amanda Orson shared about her Reverse To-Do List in which she writes down progress she’s made each day in a notebook. Her focused approach lead her to tweet and participate in forumns less:

“The relentless pursuit of becoming more efficient and getting things done readjusted my priorities. I spend a lot less time wasting time and a lot more time trying to add things to my tiny notebook of accountability.”

Matthew Leonard shared his journey, When to Take a Social Media Break:

“Twitter became my priority. It became my obsession.

I should’ve been shutting down and enjoying a moment in life, a moment I can never get back.

Instead, my mind was focused on how to condense the moment into 140 characters and share it.

My life had become a massive extended relationship. I was losing focus on the core people, and priorities, in my life. I was spreading myself too thin for fear of not ‘sharing’, or turning my back on social media.

If one’s not careful, life can become one massive extended relationship!

I recently had a conversation with Shane Igo, a guy very involved in consumer electronics, and discussed how fewer people are reading. I expressed my concern about a “dumbing down” of our culture due to people spending so much time in social media. His response was insightful:

“There is a lot of good that comes from social media. However, people get overwhelmed if they don’t have good filters or ability to process.

People have a longing to have mastery over a craft or subject. That will not come from just keeping up on tweets. You need to dig deeper.”

Yes! You have to dig deeper! The social media firehose can become a distraction that interrupts one’s mastery over a craft (other than becoming a “social media guru”).

I love social media and appreciate the friendships that have developed from it. I want to keep those friends and not get so diluted that I don’t notice them as they “fly by” in my stream. Too much of a good thing doesn’t make it better.

For me, it’s time to control the fire hose.

What about you?

How do you control the influx of information you process? Do you have things you enjoy or passions you want to pursue that do not involve the computer?

If you could free up an extra hour or two a day, what would you do with your free time?


Creative Commons LicensePhoto Credit – Fire Hose: http://www.flickr.com/photos/namlhots/3096109459/ / CC BY 2.0

 

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Amanda Orson March 27, 2011 at 9:23 am

Thanks for this post Dana.

I had noticed that Matt disappeared from twitter and, since the writing of my own post, my experiences of being on Twitter/ Forums/ Social media in general has very much mirrored his.

SEO is implictly dynamic, but startling revelations and shifts are just as easily remedied by monitoring your own stats and checking in with the world when stats vary extremely one way or another.

The time I spent on twitter, forums, and other social media was time I wasn’t sharing at home or on projects that could make me money. It is, uneqivocably, the single biggest mistake I made when I began working from home for myself.

I tried several different things to remedy the information I was processing- from filtering tweets through lists to limiting my time on it per day with apps like RescueTime and Self Control (http://visitsteve.com/made/selfcontrol/ <- warning, this is hardcore and will block anything you set it to without remedy).

In the end, I've found that stepping away during the week and limiting my time to evenings and weekends was the best for me. The accountability notebook you mentioned above has very much enhanced my productivity- and my tweets/ day average is down around 1.2. That's not a coincidence.

And, like Matt, I've got a lot more time for things that really matter. But more than time… the *quality* of the life experiences I have has improved because I am not tethered to a handheld device or a laptop screen.

In short, I have been living a richer, simpler existence on this side of the social media firehose.

My only regret is not having made this decision sooner.

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2 Dana Lookadoo March 27, 2011 at 12:16 pm

So glad you expanded on your experience! And I’ve had Matt in the back of my mind for over a year. Instead, we’ve emailed a few times to communicate. It worked! :-)

I’m even more inspired by your further explanation and what you’ve gotten out of it all and the resulting productivity. Actually, there are a couple forums where I get a lot of value and necessary information about latest happenings in SEO and search. However, that discretionary time alloted to study is often taken away by miscellaneous chatter.

I guess it’s all about balance, and my own evaluation of how I spend my time has shown me that I’m spending it in ways that are not meeting goals. I get a heck of a lot done when I shut down for hours. THAT is truly fulfilling!

Amanda, I so appreciate the example you’ve set forth and for your sharing. On that note, it’s time for a bike ride! :-)

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3 Dana Lookadoo March 27, 2011 at 8:18 pm

Amanda, wanted to thank you for the tips regarding RescueTime! (Admittedly, Self Control looks a little intimidating.) RescueTime, however, looks like a great solution with its reporting and integrated project management along with time management.

If you have an affiliate link, feel free to drop it here to share with others. I’ll sign up through it. :-)

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