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August 2009

Social Media Overload

Remember this?


It's the Twitter Curve created by Kathy Sierra back in 2006 (referenced again here in 2007) and included in a fascinating blog post about the growth of communications channels leading to continuous partial attention, to the detriment of mankind. An excerpt:

Moore's law for the brain doesn't quite work. We're evolving much, much, much too slowly... Brain 2.0 isn't coming anytime soon. And we're all feeling the enormous weight of not being able to keep up. We can't keep up with work. We can't keep up with our social life. We can't keep up with the industry, our hobbies, our families. We can't keep up with current events. We'll never read a fraction of those books on our list. And we are hurting. Worst of all, this onslaught is keeping us from doing the one thing that makes most of us the happiest... being in flow. Flow requires a depth of thinking and a focus of attention that all that context-switching prevents.

I hadn't thought about Kathy's visual in months; that is, until I saw this image making the rounds on the 'Net last week:

For the uninitiated, the letters used in making the above ransom-esque note are pulled from the most popular new media sites & tools (Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Yahoo!, Gmail, eBay, Blogger, Flickr). The creator, to my knowledge, remains unknown.

But really, it could be any of us. Two years have passed since Kathy so keenly hit on the issue (and dozens of others have as well), and the problem only seems to have gotten worse.

Here's a peek into my world [which will hopefully shed light onto why my responses to some of you are so tardy...and my blog posts of late, fewer & farther apart]:

  • Current browser tabs open: 9 (that's pretty typical for me, I would say)
  • Yahoo! Inbox: 12,697 messages. I just checked and the oldest go back to 2003. This is from a time when I had all industry newsletters, retail promotions, and personal mail going to one account. I've since made this my personal-mail-only account, and generally keep up with those messages, but there are a lot of legacy ones still in there that I [stupidly] think I'll get through some day.
  • Gmail Inbox: 26,722 messages. Silly, I know. But this is where I now get all of my industry newsletters & retail promotions. I really enjoy reading them, I simply just can't keep up. So the volume continues to grow and grow (hooray for all that free storage!)
  • Hootsuite: 2 Twitter accounts (personal + professional) and 486 others that I follow (collectively)
  • LinkedIn: about 100 messages in the inbox; nevermind the live update feeds & discussions.
  • Facebook: 113 messages in the inbox; again, little time or energy for the live feed.
  • Netvibes Homepage: 94 RSS feeds from an assortment of sources - mainstream publishers like WSJ and NYTimes, as well as local sources and friends that blog. These guys have been getting the least attention of late (sorry!)

There's also, of course, the work email account, text messages on the phone (my new T-Mobile/Google Android phone which I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, even though it feeds into all this craziness), and assorted activity in other accounts like Flickr, IM clients, and my social media graveyard (MySpace, Friendster). How do I manage? Well, I'm an information junkie and obsessed with emerging media, so it's my nature to consume a lot to begin with. The above outline seems out of control, but really I'm continuously scanning the headlines and subject lines and addressing the things of utmost importance [to me]. I also make time to read books, cook, and travel, among other things (lest you think I'm sitting in a dark room, illuminated by the glow of a monitor 20 hours a day).

But even I am noticing the hardship caused by continuous partial attention. It's tiring. And the value:time ratio isn't maybe as strong as it used to be, when following a lot of publishers meant I was always "in the know." Now it just means that I see a lot of the same news, in muliple places (welcome to ReTweet Nation). It's time to cut back, and/or find a trusted digital curator.

Don't get me wrong; I still love the Web and all things emerging media...I just want my life back.

From Writing Boots, channeling Kurt Vonnegut:

Here's a test: Spend one day surfing the Internet and spend another roaming your neighborhood. See how many good dinner table stories you have after each. There won't be a contest.


I've seen references to "LOHAS" twice in as many weeks. So it's time to take a look at what it means:

LOHAS stands for "lifestyles of health and sustainability."

You may not be familiar with the acronym, but you're likely familiar with the concept: it refers to that segment of the population that is looking for balance (in their diets, budgets, lifestyles) and mindfulness (through self help books, yoga practice, or eco-tourism, for example).

And as you can imagine, the LOHAS market represents big business for a variety of products and services related to good health, eco-consciousness, meditation, yoga, and holistic wellness. In fact, it was worth an estimated $209 billion domestically in 2005 — equal to the value of the aerospace industry and more than the food services industry. Last year, Americans spent $5.7 billion on the yoga subset alone — including equipment, clothing, vacations and media — which was an increase of 87% since 2004.  And here's something else of interest: while yoga practitioners may be a relatively small group (~ 7% of US adults), they are a relatively affluent one, with 44% reporting incomes of $75K+ and 24% with$100K+ (read: a marketer's dream).

Today, LOHAS consumers are estimated to account for one-third of the U.S. population (63 million adults) and over $230 billion in sales annually.

Apparently, I'm a Lohasian and I didn't even know it! Here's why:

Yoga I love my yoga practice at Charlestown Yoga. Nothing beats an hour of Hatha Flow after a stressful, desk-bound day in the office.

Ode I recently discovered (and subscribed to) Ode Magazine, a magazine and Web site "written for intelligent optimists” that focuses on ways to sustain "ourselves, our minds, our energy, our planet, our society." In fact, as part of your paid subscription, Ode will plant a tree to help stop global warming.

Source I've raved about The Source to numerous people. It's Dr. Woodson Merrell's guide to integrative medicine, including tips for better eating, exercise, and social connectivity.

And there's probably more.

While I don't consider myself an activist like, say, the other Stephanie Rogers, I would say I'm much more conscious of health and sustainability than I've ever been. And I'd venture to say that the general population is heading there as well.

Watch for the current green marketing fad to shift subtly in order to encompass simplicity and inner wellness for the consumers, not just the environmentally-friendliness of the products.

[Note: I have no affiliation with the above products and services, other than being a happy customer.]