A couple of notable signposts I recently passed on the social media highway. The first, a twitter post from a new tweetFriend yesterday:
Question for everyone: How do you go about “catching up” on Twitter when you’ve been away for a couple of hours?
The second, a link from another tweetFriend to twitTangle:
We allow you to rate and tag your friends and then filter your timeline to help you easily find the tweets that are most important to you!
Official Inkstain Daughter Nora, who is a social media professional (Really! I am not making that up!) has long offered a particularly thoughtful argument about the trajectory of social media. You jump on it with a bunch of friends because it’s fun. It gets clogged up with a network of connections that becomes too dense to manage, for a variety of reasons. You jump off and head to a new social media goober.
Thus my own social media networks are rooted in the old email lists and IRC from my free software days. When Orkut arrived, we all jumped on and hung out for a bit. And left. The early days of climate blogging offered a similarly small and uncluttered community that was fun. I don’t spend much time there any more.
RSS offers another self-assembled way to manage this situation, with weaker links and fewer social obligations. Facebook and LinkedIn haven’t much worked for me. And now Twitter (and Identica), which I love but fear are quickly acquiring the same sort of baggage.
This has something to do (which I haven’t thought through very carefully yet) with network effects and tipping points. There seem to be a pair of thresholds. Once you get above the first, with enough nodes on the graph for the network to become useful, it’s fun. But at some point it rises above a second, where there are too many nodes to manage. With some technologies, paring nodes is socially hard (this is Nora’s argument) so you just jump to a new social networking platform. But part of the problem for me is that there are simply too many interesting people, which makes it personally painful to me to do the necessary paring to make the social network manageable.
One of the interesting corollaries of this is that I’ve got a handful of nodes that have migrated with me (I’ve migrated with them?) through a variety of these media. Nora’s experience is similar.
Meatspace enforces this problem using basic physics. There are only so many people who can fit in the room with you. Perhaps that ultimately is the best solution. Off to work, to an office full of people.