Friday, June 19, 2009

Social Media...Nectar or Poison?

Life is such an irony at times! In other words, it is a totally paradoxical world whichever way you look at it.

Social Media and Networking was originally meant to deliver us from ignorance. We were and are being advised to stay in touch, keep running, reading, and having conversations so we will be able to make sense of this complex world. And many of us oblige obediently. Because we want to be in the know. We want to run along with the world and not be left behind. We email, we blog, we tweet, we facebook, we digg and we what not. Some of us have the stamina and bandwidth to manage more than some others....but, eventually, we are all exhausted by the constant bombardment. It becomes so tiring that we don't see/process something that's happening right under our noses. After all, how on earth can we practically keep up with billions of people and events that happen every time we blink? I've, more than once, pondered over the dilemma of having to catch up with too many things and the inability to focus on and get deeper into one of the many things that come to us from the ever-growing virtual world. It is, all in all, a chaotic and fragile web of distractions that we are stuck to or rather dangle from.

So, when @VMaryAbraham tweeted a link to this article, I was amused. [I saw the article only because I happened to be catching up with tweets. Heh.]

Here comes more of the irony I referred to at the sta
rt of this post. I saw the tweet, read the article (for once I did not skim through but actually read the whole thing steadily), re-tweeted it to my circle on Twitter, bookmarked it on Delicious, posted it to my colleagues on our own internal equivalent of Twitter, posted it on the Indian KM Community website for feedback from other KMers and then headed over here to talk about it! Mother of all ironies, don't you think? [Could even be a mild form of schizophrenia ;-)]. And before I forget to mention, this was not a continuous process. I obviously got distracted by a dozen mails and plenty of tweets. [Mirthless laugh!]

Getting back to the article, the author starts off with the question, "What are the consequences of exposure to a constant, high-volume stream of media and information?" and goes on to answer it herself. She says - and I agree because it's quite logical - it reduces your attention span, makes you stupid, lazy, turn into a jerk, an annoying companion and gullible. She fortunately finishes the post with some suggestions on how to avoid the impact that addiction to SM tools could potentially have on us.

In the article Nicholas Carr is quoted as saying "Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski." I couldn't have put it better.

And I must now make the deadliest of confessions. I actually liked the pictures in the article and was chuckling at them (the kitten, the shiny things etc). They served their purpose and distracted me enough to be able to get back to reading the article as soon as I'd seen them. Speaking of which, it's high time I get your attention back on this post. Take a look at this pic and take a deep breath. Nice pic, right?

Calvin and Hobbes

But I seriously think that it is only the IT world that is so distracted and interrupted by social media tools. People in most other professions (especially the ones that don't involve staring at computer monitors and require the mobile phones to be switched off) are away from this chaotic web when they're at work. Makes me want to go away from IT and get into painting or something.

Which reminds me. Before I read the article under question, I actually ended up deleting a lot of pending RSS feeds that I was unable to catch up with for the past one month or so. I should, I suspect, feel relieved about having done that.

If you remember, I said I'd posted this article on the Indian KM community website. Just reaped the benefits of doing that. Even as I was busy writing this piece, I got to read another very useful article that @dineshtantri shared on the thread. This post's author puts it well too - "The speed with which information hurtles towards us is unavoidable (and it's getting worse). But trying to catch it all is counterproductive. The faster the waves come, the more deliberately we need to navigate. Otherwise we'll get tossed around like so many particles of sand, scattered to oblivion. Never before has it been so important to be grounded and intentional and to know what's important."
Of course, there are times when we don't know whether something is important or not until we follow it through and, more confusingly, somethings turn out to be important only when we follow it through! It's a complicated world.

PS: I just traced this post (that is, MY POST) back to its beginning and re-read it and have this strange feeling that it is not a continuous post but a loose collection of thoughts from different parts of the brain. Does that reflect something? Eeeks. Scary.
Focus. Meditate.


Mary Abraham said...

Nimmy -

Great post! Perhaps we should just admit that we can't do/read/write it all. So, we should do what you seem to do: when something catches our intention,engage with it; spend the time to think about it; share it and our thoughts. That way, we have a slightly better chance of getting below the surface rather than simply jet-skiing through our online life.

- Mary

Nimmy said...

Thanks for leaving a comment, Mary! :-) And what a nice and sensible comment! I like the idea of "spending time, thinking, and sharing" when something "catches my attention".

Like what has happened in the case of this very article that you shared...the act of reading it thoroughly and writing about it makes me feel I've dug a bit deeper rather than just run across it without grasping anything whatsoever.

Kimber_Regator said...

Thanks so much for sharing my blog post (I'm the author...for the record, I'm female but that matters less than the fact that you got something out of it). I enjoyed your post here and am glad the pictures served their purpose. If the post feels more like a loose collection of thoughts rather than a continuous post, I might need to work on my writing skills because, in truth, I sat down and wrote the entire thing non-stop in one day. ;)

Nimmy said...

A pleasure to see your comment here. Thanks so much! And I am so sorry about using "he" and "him" when I should have actually said "she" and "her". Apologies. I have now corrected that in my post. And, yes, thanks so much for the nice article. It made me think and ponder over something that has been brewing in my mind for long.

And, finally, when I said that 'this' post appears to be a loose collection of thoughts, I was not referring to your article but my own post - on this very blog. The problem obviously is with my own writing skills and not yours!!! So there! :-) [I referred to many posts in my own post and wrongly assumed that saying "this post" would point to my own post rather than the other 'articles'! :-| Sorry...!]

Aneet said...

"Once I was a scuba diver..." That really hits the nail on the head as far as the impact Online Social networking/media has had. Everyone is so twitter-esque now that a sentence containing more than 160 characters disorients people! I had written a similar blog post a couple years ago:

I have removed myself from the clutches of online social networking and have been orkut/facebook free since Jan 2008!! :P

Nimmy said...

Hey Aneet,

Thanks for the comment. You're it! :-)

I too am sort of free from the Orkut scraps....mostly stuck to this blog and Twitter. It must be bliss to be able to ignore all the chit-chat and only concentrate on things that are important....!