# Ann Althouse recently linked to a self/referential piece from Glenn Reynolds in which he quotes:

"I think that the old blogosphere was superior to 'social media' like Twitter and Facebook for a number of reasons. First, as a loosely-coupled system, instead of the tightly-coupled systems built by retweets and shares, it was less prone to cascading failure in the form of waves of hysteria. Second, because there was no central point of control, there was no way to ban people. And you didn’t need one, since bloggers had only the audience that deliberately chose to visit their blogs."

Social networks provide us with convenience, with scale, everything and everyone in one place. They are the ultimate aggregators. People argue that individual sites are too inconvenient, that they can't keep up with everyone they need to so the draw of the networks is strong. Once they've drawn you in and helped you establish these connections it's hard to pull away.

We can connect with thousands and 21st Century parlance calls them all friends. Indeed, the friends list has sadly taken over from the stuffed Rolodex as a marker of social status but it is now used by millions rather than the movers and shakers in business.

But it's too much.

The networks have allowed us to circumvent nature, forced us beyond Dunbar's number. Circles of acquaintanceship (the idea that as our circle of friends expands so our intimacy decreases and we can only have so many at each layer of friendship) are cast aside as our feeds present everyone in the same manner with equal visual priority - each update is just a "social unit" the same as any other. Algorithms try to show us what is more important, more relevant, but this rarely equates to what's truly meaningful in our lives.

This is why the idea of Circles on Google Plus was so intriguing until the same complaints about complexity lead to their ultimate failure.

And because we can connect with thousands without adequate distinction, interacting with the masses detracts from those connections that are genuinely important. We spend our time chasing the white rabbit down deeper and deeper holes into irrelevance calling it "educating ourselves" or "staying informed" but we are not biologically equipped to function on such a global scale.

Of course, the question as to whether the old blogosphere was superior is multi-faceted and very much subject to individual opinion. What can't be denied, however, is that it is a far better match for our biological capability to connect and effectively interact with others.

I think it's time to step back and reassess our approach, to appreciate that we don't need to follow thousands to stay informed. There are better and easier ways, and if something is important it will find its way to you.

It's also time to treat our connections as individuals again, as whole people and not just the sum of their social units. In doing so we must recognise they will exist in different circles of acquaintanceship, and we cannot treat them all alike in the way our feeds do.

We must reconnect properly with those who really matter and not let those relationships get crowded out.

  1. matthewlang says: #
    Great post Colin. I do like your idea to treat connections as individuals.
    It's also time to treat our connections as individuals again, as whole people and not just the sum of their social units.

  2. Colin Walker says: #
    Thanks. It just makes sense. People merge with the stream if we allow it, their posts interchangeable with those of others. Limiting our connections so we actually have time for them seems so much more fulfilling.

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