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Serendipitous discovery, or social distraction?

February 24, 2011

I think social media is starting to rot our brains – at least mine.

Ten years ago, I used the web almost exclusively to accomplish tasks.  I researched things.  I surfed ebay for stuff I wanted.  I traded stocks.   When I sat down in front of the keyboard I had something specific in mind that I wanted to accomplish.  I had focus.

Search was a tool for me to find specifically what I wanted.    I saw this video today and was struck by how much we  seem to be optimizing social to create potential outcomes based on connections of happenstance rather than a deliberate focus. This latest twist seems to be search for people who aren’t really sure what they want, but have enough friends in their social net, doing enough diverse things, that they can serendipitously put together all the right connections.



I think social media is impacting our ability to focus.    Facebook and Twitter are especially adept at this – you can find yourself reading about and commenting on things you had no idea were going on  when you sat down at the PC.   It’s entertaining, and there are ways to advance business objectives based upon this participation style.

But, did you have a purpose when you sat down, other than to be entertained?   Did social nets help you accomplish those tasks, or were the tasks simply the interactions with the social nets in and of themselves?

In any given hour of my day I could be navigating through the forum to post an answer that I have just found,  and become distracted by another topic that looks particularly urgent and stop to respond.  As I do, I realize how something could work better and click over to another community to log an idea about this.  After logging that Idea, I notice the on below the one I just posted and it’s pretty good too, so I vote for it, and then have a follow on way that it could be implemented, so I tack on a comment with my particular suggested nuance.   As I mouse over to click back to my forum, I notice that there are 17 new tweets on my twitter tab, so I click and read these and one definitely needs a response so I do and then I see another that is promoting something from one of the company blogs, so I click in to that to read it and see that a couple of the comments are from people that were in a forum thread about the change in LCD aspect ratios on the next generation of products that I read about an hour ago.   I’m not sure which board that was on, but if I put their screen name in the search box and view all their posts I’m sure I can find it.  And another hour passes and I’ve done a number of things, but I’m left feeling more than a bit ADHD from flood of information via the social nets.

So, you can imagine that when I see a search experience being mashed up with a social graph, I’m left to wonder if this winds up being more discovery or distraction.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Tim permalink
    February 24, 2011 3:06 pm

    Whatever this disease is, I’m afflicted with it too. Hell, that’s how I ended up on your blog! *Went to check Google Ready for XYZ, saw Markitude has 1 new post, clicked over, and….*

  2. February 26, 2011 4:12 pm

    @Tim, At least you can remember what you started out to check on! I get distracted and then have to struggle to remember what I was looking for in the first place.

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