February 26, 2012    /    by

When Do Social Networks Become a Burden?

How many online social networks have you joined? I'm starting to wonder if there are too many social media sites that I participate in. Is a backlash coming?

  How many online social networks have you joined? There’s the basic list (sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter) as well as conference interaction websites, Intranet sites at work, online magazine communities, professional association portals, security and technology topical sites (like ‘mobile security’ or ‘cybersecurity for government cloud computing’ within sites like LinkedIn) and so many more.

  Whether we’re discussing work, home, family, sports, kids, church or all of the above, the logons can start to add up. They all want us to engage in new (or more) conversation. Once you’re engaged, it can be tough to disengage.

  I’m starting to wonder if there are too many social media sites that I participate in. Is a backlash coming? One woman is even giving up Facebook for Lent.

  But for the rest of us, an interesting trend is accelerating in which more and more groups are adding social networking “communities” or areas of interest at work. No, the idea is not totally new – we’ve had “birds of a feather” meetings at conferences for years. But the 2012 difference is that just about everyone is starting to create new online communities. It can become overwhelming to keep up, if you’re not careful.

  Whether you’re involved with broad professional groups for accountants or computer scientists, or general interest communities on topics like keeping healthy or very specific sub-groups that discuss the latest trends in (whatever), it can be a challenge to decide when to “turn it off” or not join at all.  Oftentimes, employees are placed on committees or into industry roles where “joining the discussion online” in expected. Students are sometimes even graded on their online interactions.

  But at what point does joining a social network become a burden? Of course, I’m not the first to ask this question – nor will I be the last. A google search of “how many social networks are too many?” yields 112 million results.  Here are some of my favorite excerpts:

  NPR -  How many social identities are too many?  -  Okay, so you're on Facebook and Twitter, and you tweet and you blog and you think you're, oh, so courant. But faster than you can lay off half the staff of MySpace, up pops a new specialized social community like Beluga from Mobile messaging, with just a private group of friends. That's a cool one. And Instagram, for sharing photos; or how about Path, a so-called personal network, limited to just 50 friends; or Audioboo for sharing audio? Using any of those?

  Well, if so, you - do you have a different personality for each one, different networks for all those different things? And how do you manage that? How do you decide where to post that snowman picture that you just took in the blizzard? Better for Facebook or Tumblr? Where do you post your Super Bowl commercial pick this year, Second Life or Twitter?

  Confused? Well, it's just the beginning because things are going to get a lot more complex….”

  Social Media or Social Burden?“I have often been asked the question on my social networks ‘How do you get so many friends/followers/connections? Well – the truth is…I am famous and am hiding it from the world…not!

  The fact of the matter is that I was/am hooked on social media. It is an addiction of mine….”

Over on the solution side and not just venting …

 Apps to help you deal with too many apps

  “When you see as many apps as we do at RWW, you begin to feel like it's all been done. So many of the everyday jobs for apps to do can already be done by at least one app (if not dozens). How many ways can you share photos with your friends? How many social networks and check-ins and restaurant-discovery services do we need?

  Lately, we've started to see a new class of app emerge just for managing these tasks across their various apps. The idea of apps for our apps sounds ridiculous, but some of them are neat, and some are downright lifesavers. Here's a round-up of apps you should use if you want to bring your many social networks into one dedicated place….”

Any Ideas?

  So what do I recommend? I’m not quite sure, but I’ve just been asked to join a few more professional “communities” this month and help create another “trusted environment to share cyber ideas with peers.” The trouble is that I’m not sure who will actually join or be interested in these sites that I can really trust. Can I truly “engage” in all of them? One troubling aspect that I’ve seen repeated is this: a group builds a new community portal that offers a different, unique or some type of ‘special’ set of trusted relationships that others don’t have – only to grow into irrelevance over time as the marketers or other expansion pressures demand more.   

  Don’t get me wrong, there are real benefits to many of these communities. The trouble is they are growing like ivy. From a security perspective, there is the logon / password /single sign-on angle. There’s also the questions around motives and hidden agendas.  But I’m not going there in this piece.

  The bigger issue is how do we share ideas with the needed levels of trust and openness?  Conversely how do we ensure the right level of security and technology to not share with those who are competitors and/or are not in a “need to know” situation? Can we organize things better? Join forces or merge portals? Do more with less?

  Understanding social networks can become a complex topic. There’s a lot of competition for our time at home and work. (I appreciate the fact that you took the time to read this rant.) I’d love to hear ideas from readers on how you make these decisions. I’m not sure that I know the answer on this one.