Why can’t Online be more like Offline

As I said in my previous post I have spent a bit of time cleansing my social networks to make them work better for me and hopefully enable me to engage with them more often and in more appropriate ways.

The underlining issue for me is that unless the social networks and social media tools I use can actually blend into my life and activities then I’m unlikely to engage with them (selfish I know but how different am I to most people) – this is a recent change of tact for me as I used to love playing with new networks and seeing their potential benefits and uses. But my available time has reduced dramatically over the last few months due to a number of reasons and I am finding that I simply don’t have the time to engage with some social networks because they take too much effort to interact with and they don’t always contain the people or connections I need in a given situation.

A couple of examples being Gowalla and Foursquare – I used to enjoy checking in and finding out who was either in the same location or who I’d missed etc, but now I simply don’t bother – lazy perhaps. This doesn’t mean that Location Based Social networks aren’t useful – they are, but the mass public are using them yet and not enough of my friends or groups I connect with are using them often enough to justify the investment of time – I no longer have the time to simply find out what loose connections were or are doing. But I believe there is something a bit more fundamental to this feeling.

My general lack of available time leads to less engagement with a variety of “fringe” social networks and has made me think about those networks which offer me most value and that in turn lead to the cleansing exercise – as my involvement in these networks has to deliver value for me or I’ll simply drop out of them. In terms of location features, a lack of take-up amongst my Facebook connections means that Facebook places hasn’t even attracted my time yet?

It also poses another issue which I only really thought about recently when I bought my wife a new iPod Touch. If as a fanboy of social networks and social media in general I struggle to engage with some of these sites then what is the impact on general public. My wife’s use of Facebook has increased since she got the iPod touch, my view on this is that it is easier for her to engage with then waiting for the PC to start-up and then access the browser and most, if not all of her connections are on that network.

I think the challenge and issue I was trying to solve with the cleansing exercise is captured in the following very long but surprising easy to digest presentation by Paul Adams:

“I don’t have a single bucket of friends”

I am however connected to a variety of  people who make up groups each with a different identity and each with a different purpose and within those groups I have different relationships with people – strong ties, weak ties and temporary ties.  (the definition of these is provided within the presentation below)

This is exactly how my offline life is – a series of connections to groups and relationships all separated by boundaries of one form or another and generally they don’t overlap. Due to my commitments  – my family + my full-time employment + my part-time employment + being a school governor – managing these relationships, boundaries and connections online requires working harder than I do offline – surely this isn’t supposed to be like this!.  I know that managing my networks in the way I have decided will enable me to create some aspect of separation but not to the level that reduces my overhead in managing my online presence.

I have made use of Facebook lists to provide a level of additional privacy, but will need to review after my cleansing exercise. But other networks don’t really provide the same features, and this is why I have decided to use each network in the way outlined in my previous post.

Seeing this presentation made me feel a bit better because it wasn’t down to me not using the networks properly but because there is simply no social network that allows me to do this.  I know we all need to grapple with the blurring of our lives, but sometimes boundaries are their for a reason and we need support mechanisms to maintain these boundaries should we choose to.  This is often one of the barriers that people state to me when not engaging with social media within the workplace. People are concerned that aspects of their lives will be shared with people who they simply don’t want to share it with.

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4 Replies to “Why can’t Online be more like Offline”

    1. Hi Lynda,

      I’m not convinced that simply having a friend feed helps me manage the different relationships. I have no problem accessing them all through a consolidated view, not always via the phone to be honest, but unless your networks are set up correctly in the first place your activity stream is always going to create confusion.

      Social Networks have recognised the fact that our lives are one giant activity stream. But unless I can filter that stream by a particular group or set of friends – it doesn’t offer much value.

  1. Hi Carl, interesting post and something that one of our Directors at Learning Pool, Paul, was pondering about a few months ago http://www.learningpool.com/blog/the-jekyll-and-hyde-of-the-internet/ I think people naturally migrate to the networks their people are already using – most of my friends are on FB, not Twitter or LinkedIN, so I have different connections in each of these, but tend to only post family pics on FB. Foursquare – I’m not convinced yet, and only know a handful of tech-types who use it. I think the work-life lines are blurring beyond all recognition – and in 10-15 years time the youngsters who are posting drunken pics on FB will wish they hadn’t!

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