September 26, 2008

Hitting the Twitter Wall

It's a sad commentary on life in a web 2.0 world when a successful social networker discovers that there's an inverse relationship between the size of her network and the quality of her network. Corvida, guest blogging on Chris Brogan's blog, recently disclosed that she's decreasing her connections while increasing her network. And it's not a good thing. Here's how it works: when she had no more than 400 (!) followers on Twitter, she claims she was able to make real connections with them. As she put it,
I knew who the majority of my followers were, thereby enabling me to utilize Twitter to its maximum potential. I was able to connect, refer, analyze, and reflect on what I was getting from my followers.
Unfortunately, Corvida has been a victim of her own cybersuccess. Here's her description of her current sorry state:
Now, I couldn’t tell you who half of my followers are. I really don’t know who I’m following and who I’m not following. I don’t even know why certain people are following me. In turn, my conversation on Twitter has deteriorated along with the amount of time I used to spend on Twitter.
Corvida has hit the Twitter Wall. She can grow her network of followers infinitely, but she can't sustain a human connection with all of them. When this happens, it leads to some perfectly predictable results: a loss of energy, a loss of interest, a loss of enjoyment.

There's a limit to the number of meaningful relationships any human being can nurture on a regular basis. While web 2.0 tools provide an easy way to make contact, that ease can also get in the way of focusing on the relationships that matter. We've been swept up in the allure of easy connections and they are cluttering our lives.

That's when we hit the Twitter Wall or the Facebook Wall or the LinkedIn Wall. At that point, what exactly do you do with the 500+ or 1000+ people who think they have a claim on you? As Corvida points out, now we've got a problem:
We don’t have a clue on where to begin to make deeper connections as our networks continue to grow. In turn, things may just get out of hand. You start adding people just because they added you with no desire to establish a real relationship with anyone that you haven’t already befriended beforehand.
Corvida wonders if we just need better electronic tools? I don't think so. What we need is a bit more focus and discipline. (These are key to any successful personal knowledge management effort.) While size matters with respect to certain issues, quality matters much more than size if you want a meaningful social network. Perhaps someday someone will come up with a great (open source) social media tool that ensures quality relationships within a network, but until then we'll have to do it the old-fashioned way: identify the folks that matter in our lives and then focus on developing a meaningful relationship with them.

It's either that or face an extended period hitting our heads against the Twitter Wall.

2 comments:

Samuel Driessen said...

Really nice post! Maybe we should simply stay closer to the "Dunbar number" (everyone has about 150 people in their social network, that they really know and can tell something about). I try to do that in Twitter, LinkedIn etc. All the connections in their are from people I know, trust and value.

Mary Abraham said...

Thanks, Samuel. You're clearly more energetic and optimistic than I am! I'm not sure I've actually got the bandwidth to support 150 separate relationships. Something under 50 is probably closer to reality. Nonetheless, I commend you for setting your limits at a point that is sustainable and enjoyable for you.

- Mary