6 Ways to Stop the Social Media Madness

stock.xchng image by topferI don’t know about you, but I’m feeling the strain of the onslaught of information brought about by social media tools. Even though I’m sure I qualify as an information junkie, increasingly I feel that I’ve surpassed the limits of the amount of information I can consume.
In trying to tackle overload and meltdown, two modes that seem to be part and parcel of our digital social communications, I tried to return to some common sense, something I think we’ve almost left behind as things move so quickly around us. Here’s what I’ve come up with, and I welcome your ideas as well.

  1. Pare down. You do not need to join more than a few social networks to do most of what you need to do in your work. What are the core networks you use on a daily basis? Which ones can you live and work without? My shortlist: Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook — not necessarily in that order. For my work, these three are critical. The rest I can ignore and not feel my work — or life — will suffer.
  2. Turn off. How many pings do you get per day? How many are just “good to know” versus “mission critical?” And how many make you think “now why do I care about that?” Turn off the ones you don’t care about. Now turn off the ones that are just “good to know,” because I’m sure you cannot point to one that has totally changed your business or your life. Those are the ones you usually either come across anyway or someone you know and trust sends to you. Frankly, I’ve been shutting off all pings except for the ones that say “go there now” or “do this in 10 minutes.” Those are reminders, not invasions of my limited brain space.
  3. Designate time. If you are checking your emails, Twitter, Facebook and the rest of your networks more than several times daily, you are being controlled by your impulses to check, check, check to make sure you haven’t missed anything. Trust me, you’ve missed a lot of things, but you’ve also missed nothing at all. If it isn’t your job to monitor the social mediasphere for a client, you’re falling into the trap of “always more and never enough.” Remember that we all survived quite well before tweets and updates. Be discriminating and methodical. Dawn Foster covered this topic in “Do You Need to Keep Up With Social Media.”
  4. stock.xchng image by nkzsFilter Better. We’ve covered many filtering tools to bring the firehose of social information down to a more consumable flow including more recently “Filtering the Social Web With ShareThis” and “Stay Informed: Topic-based Reader Roundup.” But a good noise filtering system doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve got the madness under control. Filtering tools can bring down the noise decibels a notch or two but often we tend to fill our filtering tools with a never-ending list of keywords and search terms, so the end result may be a bit more targeted but no less overwhelming. Narrow your searches terms to a few mission critical terms, and be more specific to cut through the clutter.
  5. Step away. If you find yourself consumed with your social networks and endless updates, push the computer away and step away from your desk. Go for a walk. Have a conversation with someone face-to-face. Read a book or a magazine. Write a to-do list with pen and paper. Have a snack (healthy, of course). Eschew bits and bytes for tangible atoms.
  6. Go cold turkey. If you’re really struggling with managing your information intakes, just stop. Go a few days completely disconnected. No cheating. Pay attention to life. Listen to people. Quiet the roar of the firehose. Don’t worry, you won’t just survive. You’ll thrive. Then return to the social web refreshed, with newfound perspective.

None of us will die without social media. But life could pass us by if we let it take over our lives.
How do you stop the social media madness in your work and life?
Related GigaOM Pro content (sub. req.): Social Media in the Enterprise