Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Community choices – dealing with overload

Tom Forenski has recently posted “Never mind Information Overload; We live in an age of Conversation Overload (http://blog.bufferapp.com/how-often-should-you-tweet-your-blogposts). He says

“But trying to keep up is a killer. It will kill people. Especially affected will be the people who don’t realise they can’t keep up with all their conversations but will try to do it anyway.
My attitude has been that I will do as much as I can and be fine with unfinished conversations. If I don’t reply to emails, or comments, or if I lose the thread on conversations, I’m hoping that people will understand and that if it’s important, they will try to engage with me again. I’m hoping that people understand that it’s not personal.
And on the whole that’s worked for me so far.
And as more people start to deal with these issues there will be an even greater understanding of the immensity of this problem and each of us will develop their own ways of dealing with the stress of conversation overload.”

It is an issue that I also face and I guess you, reading this blog, face as well.  But haven’t we forgotten something?

We don’t respond to every other human being we meet in life and in each ecology in which we exist – as we walk down the street we don’t stop and chat to everyone who walks past.  We don’t respond to all the junk mail that is destroying the rain forests.  We don’t immediately act on the TV advertisement.  We don’t even speak to all of the neighbours just because we happen to be neighbours.  So why do we feel we have to do it just because we are in a SoMe ecology.

It is something to do with us losing track of being in community – and forgetting how community works – when get into electronic ecologies.  Every community I have ever been part of or experienced has had rules, written or unwritten, and even if the rules are that there are “no rules”.  Within those rules people either choose to stay or to go – and if they stay they learn to live within those rules.

I live in a small rural community, but one that is splendidly active, mutually caring and very involving.  I have come to understand the rules – I need to participate in some things to be seen as a member of the community, but it is not expected that I will be involved in everything.  My own rules also say that I will belong to and participate in other communities and ecologies associated with my work, leisure, beliefs and interests.

It is OK to choose and to include or exclude.  We don’t have to read all the papers every day just because they are there.

We need to apply those same filters to our electronic and SoMe enabled lives in order not to experience what Tom writes about so honestly.  If we can do that we are long way towards knowing how to leverage the SoMe for learning purposes and to being able to help others on their learning journeys.  For those of us engaged in the transformation of learning into a key business tool, we need to help others past the blockage of “too much – it’s overwhelming” that is such a common reaction to discovering the potential of social networking and collaboration at work as powerful means to greater learning.

“Filter, filter, filter” and “Organise, organise, organise”, using all the tools available to us are part of the answer – and yes, we do need to assemble our own toolboxes that work for us.  The other part of the answer is to use our inborn skills of making choices about who we listen to and interact with for what.

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