My Anti-Social Experiment

antisocial.jpgIn an IM conversation I had with Paul this morning, I decided to embark on an experiment. I’ve decided to drop out of all things social (online) for a few weeks. This includes Twitter, Buzz, Facebook, blogging, etc. The only thing this doesn’t include is email and IM — those are essential.

My online activities can be broken down to about 95% consumption and only 5% contribution. I know… I should give back more. If I were a “Jake”, I would. The thing is, I get more value from the intertubes by consuming it. I have no real excuse for not giving back as much as I consume. Reciprocity is something I need to practice more in general.

Anyway, the big reason I’m doing this is that since last Tuesday, I’ve sunk a lot of time into futzing with Google Buzz. That’s time I’ll never get back. Meanwhile, I have yet to see the real value of Google Buzz. Before Buzz, conversations and information sharing were already fragmented. Between Twitter, Facebook, blogs, etc., it has become increasingly difficult to consume information — especially for someone who spends 95% of their online time doing it.

The goal of my experiment is to figure out if I’ll miss using these social tools as a way to find new and interesting content — and, more importantly, if I’ll miss out on something I might find important. I didn’t include Google Reader in the list because out of all the tools I use online Reader is actually one that brings order to chaos… even if I have 1000+ unread postings.  In the end, I’m hoping to filter out some of the noise out of my day.  I spend 9-12 hours staring at a screen and would love it if there was less clutter that distracted me from actually getting things done.  If I happen to miss one of these channels at the end of this experiment, I’m going to figure out what I miss and why, then I’m going to try to improve my process in order to bring order to it all.  This all started because Paul sent out a link on OraTweet (Oracle’s internal version of Twitter) pointing to the “Side effects of developing for yourself” — a post about the positive consequences from solving a problem for yourself by the creator of Instapaper.  Well, this is my problem… and this is the start of how I’m planning to solve it.

Am I the only one with this problem?

AboutRich Manalang

a.k.a.: manalang


  1. I know I definitely have this problem, but I've mostly just stopped paying attention to the social media I use. I still participate, and I respond to responses, but I don't even try to follow all the content streaming at me from other folks.

    A few years ago at FooCamp there was a presentation on the effects of “Continuous Partial Attention”. It was early in Twitter's life, but the study found some interesting results of social media on the productivity of various types of workers. As you'd expect, it resulted in people not just spreading their productive output across multiple tasks, but in their overall productivity reducing substantially over focusing on a single activity.

    For my part, I feel like my mild sense of burnout is directly tied to paying too much attention to the world, be it Twitter or Reader or other Ruby impls or other JVM languages. Lately, if I feel like I'm overwhelmed by any of these outlets, I either reduce how much information is coming in or learn to ignore it. It's liberating when realize you don't have to read every blog post and every tweet.

    I'll be interested to see how your experiment goes. Hopefully I'll hear about the result without you having to rejoin the social web 🙂

  2. “CPA” — I remember reading about it, but I didn't correlate it with the problems I'm having immediately. This appears to be a problem no one is really tackling. Google's introduction of Buzz made it painfully clear to me that CPA is a real problem without a good solution other than self discipline. Seems like an opportunity ripe for innovation.

    Don't worry, I'll make sure you hear about the results of my experiment.

  3. If everyone brings one item for 20 to a 20 person potluck, you will have waaaaaay too much food. If 100M bloggertwits each emit just a little bit of crap every day, you will have… the current situation.

    I'm even tired of CNN at the gas pump.

  4. Your post reminded me of this video:

    Did You Know 3.0

    Your experiment seems like a good idea to me. Compared to a few years ago, the amount of noise being generated now is overwhelming….

    We don't have TVs at the gas pumps here in the UK … yet! That sounds insane. Are they worried people need entertaining for the 3 minutes it takes to fill up their car? Or is it just another opp. to squeeze in some more adverts. If you combine all that gas-filling time across all those petrol stations, that's a lot of air time. Gah! I hates it!

  5. We have a need to get useful information as quickly as possible, while Facebook, Google, the gas station, and other content providers have a need to give us useful information, but keep us at their sites as long as possible (so that we view as many ads as possible). Even Google Reader, which can provide useful information, is designed in such a way to encourage you to subscribe to more feeds, and therefore spend more time in Google Reader.

  6. I have a love/hate relationship with Reader. I credit it with fulfilling my need to be informed about the things I want to be informed about, but I also find that the river of information is moving way too quickly and find myself drowning in it most of the time. To Google's credit, however, they have added some nice features to Reader that allow the best content to float to the top a bit better (i.e., “Sort by Magic”) Seems like a huge opportunity to improve on the current state of tools in this area…

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