The point of social networking is to create a more efficient means of communication for all of us. Ironically however, since there are now so many different social platforms all vying for our attention, each filled with endless amounts of data, we are approaching a point of social overload.
Much like the term “information overload” which was made popular in the 1970s by Alvin Toffler and his bestselling book Future Shock, social overload can be thought of as the next logical step into an increasingly chaotic world. Just as sensory overload gave way to information overload, we can now assume that information overload is giving way to social overload.
That being the case, how can we deal with the issue of social overload? Since we have so many social connections each with an endless stream of data pouring fourth, how can we not feel overwhelmed? Well, just as search engines changed the way we navigated through millions of pages of digital information in the early days of the web, we need to have a social search engine to help us with our new challenge of navigating through our social web.
Therefore, in the next few years I wouldn’t be surprised to see an increased emphasis on technologies allowing us to filter, rank, and categorize our social networking connections and their outputs. While we can already do some of this on Facebook and other social platforms, the process is still manual and rather unrefined. Besides, the very fact that the user has to engage the process manually defeats the purpose; that would be like asking Google users to personally manipulate the search engine algorithms with every query. Instead, we simply enter the search term and the rest happens behind the scenes.
What we need is a technological boost, much like what Google’s PageRank algorithm did to search engine technology. The benefit here would be that with an algorithm in place that makes content more meaningful, we would be forced to increase the quality of what we post on our social networks. At that point, the right content will reach the right people (at least theoretically) and we can then begin pondering the next big hurdle in our increasingly overloaded world.
Until then, have fun sifting through your Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr and LinkedIn feeds. Maybe when you’re finished you’ll actually have a few minutes to spare in which you can post some of your own content for your friends and followers to view—that is, if they can find it amid everything else.