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Less social is more social

The other day my friend Christoph send a post on Facebook telling his friends and followers that he found himself in a situation where his virtual social life takes up so much time that he doesn’t have enough time for all the activities he enjoys doing in his real life.

Hinzu kommt eine Flut von Benachrichtigungen, die zunächst gesichtet werden müssen, obwohl sie bei näherer Betrachtung für mein Leben überhaupt keine Rolle spielen. Nach alledem muss ich selbstkritisch einräumen, dass im Zuge der allgemeinen Reizüberflutung wichtige Lebensinhalte auf der Strecke geblieben sind.

(I receive masses of notifications, and after reading them I find that many have no meaning whatsoever for my life. I’ve found that important parts of my life have suffered from the constant sensory overload.)

His conclusion is to cut most of his virtual relationships except those that also are important in his real world.

The same day I came across a very interesting chapter in the book I am currently reading (Bin am Meer by Udo Schroeter). The book is about a successful young manager who books a fishing holiday on a small island in the Baltic Sea. All he wants is to catch his first sea trout, but then he finds himself left with an older guy who completely turns his life upside down. He realizes that his life is all about rushing for the next kick and „my home, my car, my boat…“.

In that chapter they talk about the need to focus. The old guy tells him that multitasking is anything but desirable. The young one, who was always proud of how many balls he could juggle in the air at the same time, is told that:

Multitasking is against our nature, against our inner self and eats your attention for lunch.

I had to stop reading for a moment to reflect on whether that was true for me. You know, I have been on sick leave from work for seven months now. I have been working hard with my doctor, my therapist and especially myself to get back on track – yet not the track I was on when things turned, but onto the right track of my life. I’ve learned a lot about myself, the way I saw the world, how badly I treated myself and how much I ignored that I was on a completely wrong track. Today I realize that I had no clear focus in my life. With everything I (voluntarily) did I didn’t ask myself whether it was good for me or whether it was what I really wanted to be doing. I had no „inner center“ as my reliable power source but constantly required power and motivation from others.

I think my social media behaviour reflects that quite well. Wherever I was, whatever I was doing, I always had to publish a social post first, mainly to make people reply to me, give me some attention and show me that I was of value, even if it was just for a moment. To increase my chances of getting that attention I expanded my social networks. Today those networks contain people I have no contact with in real life or even don’t know.

In the past three years I’ve learned a lot about social media and the usage of streams of social information. One of the key issues in trying to generate benefit from them is finding the right filters. And yet my own filters, if there were any, were useless. I tried to consume as much information as possible, always afraid I might miss something, but I never realized that I actually missed a lot anyway because I simply wasn’t able to take in all the information I got. That’s what Christoph calls „Reizüberflutung“ (sensory overload). I was swamped and couldn’t swim anymore.

I still believe in social. Yet I will have to get my filters right. So here is what I will start doing today:

  1. Sort out my Facebook „friends“ list: Keep those contacts whose information is valuable for me
  2. Unfollow Facebook groups
  3. Limit my social posts to information that is valuable for others
  4. Decide between XING and LinkedIn as a professional network
  5. Sort out my Twitter network: Keep those contacts whose information is valuable for me
  6. Disable push notifications for all social accounts on my phone
  7. Arrange fixed times during the day to be „social“

Sorting out my networks means that I will unfollow or even „un-friend“ people. That does not mean that these people are not important to me or that I’m no longer interested in them. But it will help me to find and set the right filters for the load of information I can take in. Please don’t be offended. I still love you all 🙂

My goal is to be more social, or rather more efficient, in my virtual social activities over time. I want to give it some limited space in my life. I want to be able to control it rather than being controlled.

(Featured image by 123RF Stockfoto)

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