Social Media Overload: Be Smart About It!

Complaints about social media information overload remind me of alcoholics griping about all the drinks they’re being served. It’s not the bartender! It’s you!

For instance, TechCrunch’s Erick Schonfeld writes today about information overload. The post got a lot of play. And it’s instructive that Erick’s post was an outcome of using the desktop client Twhirl to manage all his Twitter and FriendFeed updates. Apparently Twhirl and AlertThingy are in some sort of desktop feed arms race (Sarah Perez coverage, RWW). Yup – you can always be “plugged in”.

So what’s the answer for information overload? Here’s what I’m doing for FriendFeed.

Prudently Add FriendFeed Subscriptions

I’m still adding people to my FriendFeed subscriptions. It’s still early, and I’m enjoying the flow of updates. Before I add a subscription, I take a look at each person’s activity streams. If the streams look like something I’d like to follow, I subscribe. If not, I hold off. Pretty basic, unoriginal policy eh? Yet it does cut back on the stuff you don’t want.

Strategy: subscribe to that which will interest you to reduce the noise factor


There aren’t enough hours in the day to constantly monitor the flow of activity through FriendFeed. I’ve got a day job plus kids that keep me plenty busy. So I check in on FriendFeed only occasionally.

This means I’m missing plenty of updates. But I do enjoy what I can see. I call this serendipity. The discovery of information at a given moment in time. That’s still a pretty good experience with FriendFeed.

Strategy: embrace serendipity, recognize you can’t possibly consume all updates

Focus on a Few Specific People

When I do have time, I will look at the activity stream for specific people to whom I subscribe. I’ll go to their profile and catch up on things I missed. I couldn’t possibly do this for everyone I follow, but I can do it for a few.

Strategy: closely follow the updates of only a few select people

Create an RSS Feed for Updates Matching Your Interests

FriendFeed is a fantastic research and discovery application. With a bit of a hack, you can create RSS feeds of FriendFeed updates that match pre-selected search criteria. For instance, I follow FriendFeed activity streams with the term “enterprise 2.0”.

This way, I stay on top of updates that interest me without having to monitor everything. And RSS is persistent, centralized, and easily viewable.

Strategy: use RSS to follow updates on topics of interest to you

Careful with AlertThingy and Twhirl

Installing AlertThingy or Twhirl as desktop clients makes FriendFeed streams constantly visible. If you’re already suffering from information overload, this is the equivalent of an alcoholic strapping on a CamelBak filled with bourbon. Access is just a sip away.

These apps remind me of the Bloomberg machines used by equity traders. Traders need to be constantly on top of the news. Missing key information by just one minute can cost them big dollars as the market moves quickly.

Are activity streams that important? No – unless you’re one of the big-time professional bloggers who needs to break, or react to, a story quickly. Otherwise they’re just too distracting and contribute to the information overload. As Mark ‘Rizzn’ Hopkins of Mashable writes (about Twitter, but also applies to FriendFeed), That’s Why It’s Called Work. If They Called It Twitter, They Wouldn’t Pay You.

Strategy: don’t install or at least occasionally turn off AlertThingy or Twhirl

That’s what I’m doing. What are your strategies for managing the social media information deluge?


See this item on FriendFeed:


Scoble the Twittering Machine

TechCrunch post:

Even Robert Scoble, the biggest Twitter whore on the planet who follows 21,000 people and receives one Tweet per second, can’t deal with it anymore.

My Twitter web page a few minutes ago:


See this item on FriendFeed: