Personal, Tech

Losing the Signal to the Noise

Bruce of Milwaukee’s own Roll Mobile posted an article on the tendency of social media users to produce content the way porn stars produce movies: quantity over quality.

Social media is no longer a fad; it’s a trend. Which means it’s here to stay, even if its form morphs and evolves over time.

But like any trend, there are those elements that hinder its growth and opportunities.

For social media, I see that hindrance being the widespread acceptance of quantity over quality. Twitter, Facebook, and blogging platforms such as WordPress and Tumblr make it easy for us to publish our every thought. Couple the ease of use with the fact that mobile devices allow us to do this from anywhere and at anytime, and suddenly people are communicating their thoughts louder and more often than ever.

This is both good and bad.

Because the chatter is so loud, and being expunged so fast and furiously, many of us feel the need to match that in order to have our own messages not get lost in the masses. It becomes sensory overload after a while.

Social Media: The Porn Stars of the Communication Medium from Roll Mobile

Amen, Bruce, amen. I know the feeling well. Late last year I posted on my own sense of oversharing – not in the sense of sharing too much detail about myself, but sharing too often; creating too much noise and not enough signal. Since then, my frenzied output on Twitter has decreased steadily, though I still feel occasionally like it’s still too much.

It’s so very true that in the world of social media, especially on Twitter, you feel a need to be posting that often. Depending on who you’re following and when you check in, your tweet stream can move very quickly. You toss something of your own in, and it’s already been washed downstream in the blink of an eye. But you’re so damn clever/inspiring/knowledgeable/informed! People want to read your every joke/quote/link! However can I make sure they don’t miss out? Obviously the solution is to just post more often. Fight the flood with a flood of your own, right?

But that’s exhausting. No one can really keep up with that kind of deluge regularly. So my renewed goal is to unplug more often. Tweet less. Check Twitter less. If there’s something important, it’ll find me eventually. William Powers, aka @hamletsbb, wrote a book titled Hamlet’s Blackberry on “staying human in a digital world” in which he explains how it’s a human necessity to get away from the flood once in a while (I had the pleasure of sitting in on his SXSW presentation).

So that’s what I intend to do.

Less noise, more signal.

Personal

#nerdhumor

So, um, this happened yesterday:

'Today is 4/04, TODAY NOT FOUND.' Over 1200 favorites so far.

It was posted totally on a whim; I expected maybe a handful of people to star or retweet it. Instead it took off and got massive visibility. As of the time of this writing it had been retweeted 1231 times using Twitter’s native retweet function and – according to a quick search via the Twitter API – over 600 times by people copying and pasting it, retweeting others who had commented, etc.

I’ve never had anywhere near this kind of widespread attention to any of my tweets in almost a year of Twitter activity. I’d love to spend some time analyzing the various non-native retweets to figure out the progression – who commented on it, whose comments got retweeted the most, and how the tweet evolved as it went. Surprisingly, the vast majority of these stayed in the original form. A few people posted it as a “via @tomhenrich” tweet, etc, but most of the retweets I saw kept it as a proper “RT @tomhenrich” format.

Nerdy highlights: I got retweeted by both @charliejane and @bonniegrrl! Mostly I’m just happy to see there are that many people on Twitter that appreciate a good nerdy HTTP status code joke.

What’s really weird is how many people kept retweeting it today, when it’s no longer 4/04. Date-based humor knows no bounds, apparently.