Not all messages are created equal: The fundamental problems of social media

I've been reading a lot of books lately and I'll tell you why. It's been a conscious decision to direct my intellectual curiosity at a specific area instead of letting it wander all over the place. The latter is what happens when you let social media dictate your daily information diet. I always had a love/hate relation with social media. Having been one of the earliest users of the initial crop of social media, I never really felt at home there. After spending quite a lot of time on social media and thinking about their place in the information universe I concluded that there are 2 fundamental problems. 
First of all social media doesn't 'weigh' messages. All messages are created equal and it's up to the reader to give weight to them. Users have to distinguish themselves how important a certain message is to them. The result is that social media promotes chitchat from remote connections with the same vigor as deep, emotionally relevant messages from close relatives. The result is a cacophony of messages from which it is extremely hard and cumbersome to pick out the valuable nuggets. It's like listening to music in which each not is played at the exact same loudness. It might be interesting for a minute, but it becomes very boring and exhausting after one minute. 
 
The other problem is when you want to share a message via social media. In real live you carefully consider with whom to share your message. Not only because of privacy reasons, but mostly because you don't want to bother all your social circles with every message you send out. Physical reality obviously helps in constraining the picking the audience for your message, but that border disappeared in the virtual realm. This is of course one of the main causes of the first problem. Interestingly enough this was one of the key insights Google+ truly understood and gave them a head start. Unfortunately Google has proven over the past decades that it refuses to take its existing user base seriously and is unable to maintain a product beyond it's beta stage (the list of killed products is as staggering as the list of Google products that are still being supported after more than a year). But I digress. 
 
After realizing social media were inappropriate for both consuming and sharing knowledge, and after having lost focus in satisfying my intellectual curiosity, I decided to skip social media and carefully picking books, pod casts and documentaries instead. I must say that it has been a soothing experience. Of course you miss some of the social chatter, and the occasional relevant insight or article, but on average it somehow gave me more peace of mind (to be honest I get the feeling that social media consumption doesn't make anybody happy). My regained focus and intellectual deepening really improved my life.
You might be wondering why I share this on my blog, which some might consider to be a social medium. I don't. This blog is where I write down my ideas and questions related to my professional life. Of course my professional life is never fully disconnected from my personal life, but the topic of all my messages here fall within a specific area and are therefore only interesting for a specific audience. You could say that my blog is a specific medium for my messages while social media, as far as they are used practically by most, is a general medium for any message. In my opinion Marshall McLuhan was right in concluding that the medium is the message, certainly when looking at the relation between a medium and all the messages it transmits. An interesting topic, but something for a separate post.

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