Getting too social?

# Social media is both a blessing and a curse.

We have the ability to communicate with many interesting people from all over the world in the easiest ways we have ever had available to us. The flow of information and responses is incredibly engaging and is making the world ever smaller - even if governments still have their differences, the citizens of the world are rapidly becoming citizens of the one global village.

On the other hand, however, social media can be a huge time-sink if not managed correctly and the danger exists that we become too engrossed so that other areas of our lives start to suffer. As I have said before: it is about finding a balance that works for us.

Different strokes

We all use social media differently, we have different goals and objectives, different reasons for using one service over another. Bloggers will use services to expand their audience and make items available to a wider cross section of the web thus enhancing their exposure. Nowhere, however, is is written that we must engage on all fronts and, as such, should not be criticised for not doing so.

We all have our favourite services and social networks; we may have accounts on dozens but we invariably use a core set of tools to get us through our daily lives be they Twitter, Plurk, FriendFeed etc. We have our followers across the web and can choose where we interact with them - our choices do not have to match and the variety in social media is what makes it interesting.


We complain about the echo chamber and call for users of social media to broaden their horizons and use social media in different ways but, it seems, when certain individuals do this they are criticised for not being accessible or interactive.

A while back, Phil over at Scribkin called out Steve Gillmor among others for signing up to FriendFeed, importing their streams and not returning deeming those individuals Posers. Now, Tad questions how many of those "well known outside of FF" actively engage on the service (fftogo link)

Forgive me if I'm wrong here, but FriendFeed is an aggregation service that just happens to let you discuss items in situ. There is no obligation that the conversation must take place in any given location or even that a conversation should take place at all. Why is it then, that someone using a service for one purpose (aggregation) should de facto be using it in the same way as others? Doesn't this go against our call for variety?

Following blindly

Social media 'friending' has always been pretty incestuous - once we follow someone in one location we tend to seek them out on the new services that we join so that our following/follower lists become ever more similar across the board. While it is always nice to have a few familiar faces on a new service there is no guarantee that we will use it to interact with each other in the same way and this should be recognised, understood and accepted.

It is our choice who we follow on any given network but if they don't use it in the same way we do then so what? As Robert Scoble commented "God forbid somebody actually try to do something other than hang out in FriendFeed all day".

  1. robdiana says: #
    Well, I have to say that if you are importing your feeds into friendfeed, the least you can do is like something every once in a while. Friending, commenting and how you use "likes" are definitely personal preference, but there is a concept of "active in a community". How you use the content that gets fed to you is also a personal choice.
  2. Colin Walker says: #
    But do you actually have to be 'active' anywhere? If FriendFeed is only being used as an aggregator why is there a need to be active? As you say, it is personal choice and some choose not to be active in certain locations.
  3. Shey says: #
    I think the topic of Gilmor is a bit different, because he was basically saying FriendFeed sucks, without having ever really using it. So how could he evaluate it without fully exploring the service?

    Other than that, I would agree that we all use social media in different ways, and not all of us are about the conversation. Value is something that differs from individual to individual.

    In regards to the echo chamber, I agree that it is what you make it. Which leads me to believe that we are wasting our time complaining about the echo. We need to encourage and appreciate new thought while mixing up our own personal networks.

    Charlie Anzman gave a good suggestion yesterday: picking up people off the Everyone tab in FriendFeed. I think it's a much better way to hear new voices than just using FOAF.
  4. robdiana says: #
    Well, like any social site, there is a sense of community. If you just dump your feeds, you are just self-promoting. Why even sign up for the service at that point if you are just going to spam it? I find it hard to believe that people could read their friendfeed river and not at least "like" one post. I am not saying that people have to comment a lot or even be that active. Just showing a little interest in some items on friendfeed qualifies as "activity".

    Think of it as if you are submitting stories to Digg/Mixx/Reddit. If you only submit stuff but don't comment, vote or anything then you are basically considered a spammer. That is generally accepted on those sites, what makes friendfeed any different?
  5. I agree, there tends to be an incestuous nature on friending in social media. It's all about balance for me, which can be hard to do. -- Maria Reyes-McDavis
  6. J. Phil says: #
    I feel obligated to respond, since you kindly linked my article here (thank you).

    Mostly, I agree with Shey's points about Steve Gillmore and FriendFeed. But further, I was dismayed because he was listed as a suggested person to follow on the service, thousands of people followed him, and had active, positive conversations on his syndicated tweets.. without any apparent interaction with the man himself. I was dismayed that he was missing out on these interactions.

    As it turns out, he may not have been missing out, he did comment on the original article and said that just because he didn't reply in FriendFeed didn't mean he wasn't watching. He did not go so far as saying he was involved, just that he wasn't not involved. I suppose I could say the same thing about God.

    That said, upon reflection I would say I don't have a problem with people using FriendFeed (or any other social media service) as a pure aggregator. That doesn't mean I would call them fully-engaged, though 'poser' has connotations that don't make it the best word.. let's say 'placeholder' for those accounts.

    Plus, if I think further about Steve's strategy in the media, is it to interact with everyone that has something to say to him? Hardly. Conversations are happening, on FriendFeed and other service, due to his influence. Although he may not be directly involved, people are learning from each other based on his influence.

    So, if the tables were turned and I suddenly had the radio show and the newspaper column and the popularity, and I was called a poser, could I refute it? No. By my own definition I'm probably a much bigger poser (outside of FriendFeed) than him. Would I care? Probably not.
  7. I'm curious if my Imaginary Friends, The Oregonian (Portland's major newspaper) and NPR News, could be construed as FriendFeed spam. My intention is to import their Twitter stream to spark discussions about issues that are both local and global.
  8. mfruchter says: #
    The individual should use social media as they see fit. There should be no requirements or restrictions on where a conversation is started or where a conversation ends. The herd mentality will always play a part. Feelings should not be hurt if a said individual is not participating on a service, or is using the service in a one way format. .
  9. gregorylent says: #
    say what? is this a club? with rules? you guys work for the riaa or something? it's just pixels in public. anybody can do what they want, why is that so hard, even for the supposed leading edge, to relax into and simply enjoy, rather than make something up about how it is supposed to be and we're special for being here and blah blah blah. blah blah blah.

    i mean, like, go write a post on the real ins and outs of brushing your teeth, or how to sit on a bus.

    man oh man ...... :-)
  10. Colin Walker says: #

    I completely agree that those that aren't active shouldn't be listed as recommended people to follow on FriendFeed and, yes, I over-simplified your post but it is a worrying trend that people consider there should be a right or wrong way to use these services.
  11. Colin Walker says: #
    The difference with sites like Digg etc. is that they are specifically platforms for sharing and the implication is that you will sharing other peoples stuff. You would not be called a spammer if you submitted hundreds of links to other blogs etc. You are only considered a spammer if you fill them up with your own.

    The point of aggregation, however, is that you are gathering all of YOUR stuff in to one place so that it can all be accessed together rather than jumping off to multiple sites. Even if you don't like or comment or even follow anyone else how can using a core function of FriendFeed be considered spamming?
  12. J. Phil says: #
    Understood. I get your point, sorry if I used your post as a soap-box of my own ;). I could actually make the argument that there may be too much blow-back actually.. for example, plurk *does* tell people how to use their service, but that doesn't stop people from using it any way they like.

    I think maybe the greater point is for a social service to be truly successful, it has to limit through functionality rather than rules.
  13. J. Phil says: #
    Imaginary friends can only be seen by you, so they are spam only if you consider them so.
  14. OK, that I didn't know. So those Tweets aren't streamed as NPRNews (Friend of ___) ? If not, do they become visible if I comment on them or "Like" them or would I have to "Reshare" them?
  15. J. Phil says: #
    You would have to reshare them. Liking or commenting does not make them visible. I believe this is to protect syndication of non-original work to some extent. With apologies to Colin for promotion within a comment, I have a blog entry about it here.
  16. robdiana says: #
    I understand your point, and spammer was definitely the wrong word to use. The concern I am trying to express is that FriendFeed seems to be a community, and if you do not comment or like, you are not participating in the community. Granted I am going on what I think the "spirit" of friendfeed is.

    One minor nit with your argument about FriendFeed purely being an aggregator. They use "share" throughout the site. There is also no guarantee that what is shared is your stuff either. So, your digg submissions are streamed to FriendFeed, do you consider that "your stuff". Granted this is outside the scope of what you are talking about, but our discussion is headed there (and may be good fodder for your next post). A blog post is slightly different because you did "generate" the content. Activity streams (like Digg, Mixx, StumbleUpon, etc) do not have the same connotations as the blog post, though it probably could be argued that even that is true.

    I have totally forgotten whether I had a point or not, so I will leave it as is :)
  17. NikitaScene says: #
    Innovation seems to be the cornerstone of social media. I love seeing people use social platforms in unexpected ways and applaud the malleable nature of the social tools.

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