Since leaving the major social networks (first through no usage and then deleting my accounts) I've written about still needing a social outlet online with micro.blog taking on that role.
Micro.blog is less a social network than a layer connecting blogs but still presents in the familiar timeline format. 1
But then I've also been writing about scaling and seeing people as people, not as units in a social stream. There seems a compatibility problem.
Recently I realised I was following almost 200 people on micro.blog (at the time of writing it's 211) and it genuinely bothered me. Perhaps more than it should.
Years ago, when I wrote about Dunbar's number, I had intended to prove that social media allowed us to go beyond it but, in making my argument, only served to reinforce the theory.
Social networks are really just one big game of "Circles of Acquaintanceship."
Although Dunbar's research suggested that the "theoretical cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships" ranges between 100 & 230 it is generally set at 150; beyond this range it becomes increasingly difficult to keep track.
The more I think about things the more intentional I want to be with my time and connections. I want them to go deeper, be less fleeting, and this has meant spending less time engaging with the micro.blog timeline. The busier the stream the harder it is to connect with given individuals.
It's not been so much a conscious decision as a natural evolution resulting from my current approach.
Seeing that I was following around 200 people felt like a jolt, a wake up call that I was heading towards the vacuity I now associate with most social media. Dunbar's number is almost like some kind of psychological threshold but I would argue that it's still too high.
While we naturally segregate our friends and acquaintances into groups (circles) based on the degree of intimacy this is hard to manage in a single, simple timeline-like environment. I think this is why particular voices have migrated to my RSS reader being a slower, more manageable venue allowing me to devote more time and concentration to them.
I use the web to connect with others but casual connections, the occasional comment scrolling past, don't seem right - don't feel like enough.
It makes me wonder if there is some kind of "post social" position. The explosion in social networks allowed us to expand, explore and see what was out there - the technology allowed us to learn something about ourselves and our nature. But it's as though we overdid it, took it too far and realised that it doesn't really work, that we need to reduce the scale, pare things back down to create something sustainable, meaningful.
This doesn't mean that I will stop using micro.blog or that I don't believe in its mission or potential, just that I'm unsure exactly how everything fits.
- The layer is how I’ve largely used it - to find those whose voices call to me leading me to subscribe to their blogs rather than just follow them in a social stream. ↩