Ankit Ahuja

The Mental Catastrophe That Is the Social Web

I may sound a bit like a hypocrite, being myself involved in so many social networks and the social web. But, my mind has finally come to the standpoint that it cannot keep up with all the bucket loads of useless information that I put it through daily. Starting today, I will be limiting the use of social networks that seem to serve no useful purpose for me which mostly includes Facebook and Orkut.

I’ve deleted my Wakoopa account (sorry Wakoopa!), since I didn’t see it help me in any way besides maybe me taking a look at it every now and then to look at an abstract graph of how I spent my last week on the computer.

I am not going to all together delete my Facebook or Orkut accounts since they let me stay in touch with friends with whom I’m not in touch with in real (non-internet) life and share stuff ( photos, links, etc. ) with friends with whom I am in touch with in real life. I would instead be limiting my use of both these social networks to a trickle. At least that’s the plan.

It wasn’t until I heard Conan O’Brien joke around about the ”attention deficit disorder” on The Tonight Show that I realised that I was actually suffering from a minor form of it. One of the culprits is Twitter, where one follows so many people that it actually pushes you to skip through information. I will gradually start to unfollow people who create a lot of noise and tend to feed my habit of ignoring information. I’m also going to avoid running a Twitter client in the background ( in my case, Tweetie ). On a more positive note, Twitter, for me, is useful to keep up to date with the latest news in areas of my choice ( Design and Technology ) and have conversations with interesting people on the Web. And yes, ofcourse, it lets me rant about me.

Google Reader and Friendfeed are useful and almost my main sources of news and information (along with Twitter) and since I use them in proportion, they don’t really hinder me. I like Last.fm as it allows me to listen to its radio and I’m not addicted to it so it doesn’t eat up my productivity.

So, what led me to the brink? Over the past few weeks, I had been overtly commenting on Facebook and checking my Gmail. It made me realise how much time and energy I was wasting doing nothing. Then, I asked myself the following questions about each social app I use frequently:

  • Does it generate content that is meaningful and useful to me?
  • Does it connect me with people who are interesting and like-minded to me?
  • Is it a time-sucker?
  • Does it make me less productive?

Social Web does have a lot of Pros in favor of it, that is if you keep your usage in check.

  • It allows you to have conversations with interesting and like-minded people on the Web, no matter where they may be physically located, eventually expanding your intellectual horizons.
  • It lets you stay up-to-date with what is happening in the world.
  • It allows you to collaborate with other people on creative projects.
  • It lets you create your own individual presence on the web.
  • It allows you to share content with your friends and family.

If kept under a check, the social web will continue to be useful to everyone instead of making everyone unproductive. So, if I don’t reply to your Orkut scrap or Facebook comment, and if it is really important, @reply me on Twitter or email me.