I think perhaps our biggest challenge going forward is attention crash. Too much input. Too much noise. We’re trying to listen to too much. The problem is that as information explodes, we don’t scale. Keeping our eye on everything simply isn’t sustainable.
Twitter gave many of us our first taste of real-time input. We were told that ‘listening to everyone’ else was our way to be heard. Twitter was the early 21st century’s party line. A message roulette of sorts. Facebook has had its lessons. After too many connections we discovered just how difficult it can be to tell loose acquaintances that their stuff just isn’t that important to us.
I finally see people around me coming to the realization that they need filters. They need a better signal.
I’ve been monkeying around with Google+ and I think it puts us a little closer to where we need be. Google forces filtering on the side of the sender and the receiver. After all, not all messages are appropriate for everyone in our broadcast area. And not all inputs (or circles) are appropriate for us all the time. G+ is more intentional and gives us the option for more control. It offers a step towards controlling the noise. I’m not sure that this is the place for me, but it’s definitely interesting.
How it’ll all shake out isn’t clear. I suspect that the draw of tighter control won’t be enough to pull the average college student or mother of four away from Facebook. Twitter isn’t going anywhere. There’ll always be demand for the party line. And I suspect that as the social world continues to fragment, the digital biosphere will segregate by species. As these properties age and fall from grace, they will evolve to comprise some kind of social media long-tail.
Either way I think we’re all (along with our tools) getting closer to understanding that listening and broadcasting to 20,000 folks is not the most efficient means of getting and sharing information. Maybe it’s the beginning of the end of an era.