Why we're not friends anymore: the nptech echo chamber

I did a kind of radical experiment a couple of weeks ago: I de-friended almost all of my nptech and client Facebook friends (cutting my friend count by more than 60%). I had a few reasons for this, and over the past couple of weeks that I've been living this experiment, it's made me quite happy. Of course, everyone is still on Twitter, and Linked in, etc., so I still feel connected. Even though I tend not to blog anywhere near as much as most of my colleagues about social networks (because it's really not my passion,) I've been a fairly early adopter, in the broad sense (of course, if I compare myself to Beth Kanter, I'm a laggard.) I have an account on all of the major social networks (and some of the obscure ones, too,) listen often, and update fairly regularly. A while ago, I realized that I would keep hearing the same nonprofit technology related stuff, over and over again, and I realized I was contributing to that by using Ping.fm to send the same status notices everywhere, or connecting my twitter account to my facebook and linked in accounts, etc. (actually, I think it might even be possible to create an infinite loop doing that stuff.) I stopped doing that a while back. Now of course it used to be that all of my Facebook "friends" were other nptech early adopters. But around two years ago, a steady stream of my real friends started to come on, and then about 40% of my Facebook friends were non-nptech related. I noticed two important things: first, a status notice that a real friend was having a hard time would get buried in the cacophany of new reports, new campaigns, new blog posts, etc. Not a good thing. Also, I noticed that I censored myself on Facebook - I wouldn't say things to friends, or play games, or take silly quizzes because I felt the need to be "professional." So all of that lead me to make Facebook a "work-free" space. I left work-related groups, disconnected this blog from Facebook, etc. And doing that led me to think a little bit about how we nonprofit technology leaders use these social networks, and how we work with our clients to use these services. I do think that still, the majority of nonprofit organizations aren't all that connected to social networks. I'm not entirely utterly convinced yet that all of them should. And I do wonder about the echo effect - if you are an early adopter, and you are on multiple networks, you are going to hear the same stuff over and over. Is that a good thing, or a bad thing? Should we be suggesting that organizations tailor much more specifically their messages, rather than using the services that allow them (and us) to send the same updates everywhere at once? The technology behind social network strategy and implementation is way more my bad than communications strategy, but this experiment has opened my eyes to some of the things we may be doing wrong. And, of course, there is an entirely interesting conversation to be had about the issues of work and personal life, but I'll save that for my other blog.


Well, I wouldn't necessarily describe you as a laggard if we look at the whole spectrum of adoption.

I think it comes down deciding what you want accomplish, what channel is work related and what is a little more personal - and if there is even a boundary between the two.

BTW, question - since you've moved cross country - any advice? I'm t-minus 3 weeks from move.

I do think it's true - it does depend a lot on what you want to accomplish. I think that there are ways that we've gotten a bit more sophisticated in dealing with social networks. And yeah, I'm not really a laggard, it was just an excuse to send you a link. :-)

As to moving across country - I imagine you've already hired the movers - but the self-service movers (where you basically hire a part of a semi-truck) leave much to be desired, for a variety of reasons. And I enjoyed taking the slow route across the country to see just how darned big it is!

Disconcerting, the very real possibility of an infinite loop!
I stopped using Ping.fm a while back (for the very reasons you mention) and have resisted the urge to feed Twitter into Facebook (ditto). But of course that's only one side of the conversation. It can be surprisingly challenging (and time-consuming) to make an effort to go outside the echo chamber, seek out fresh new voices. Still working on that...

I might follow your lead here. Facebook continues to confound and annoy me, because, unlike the other two social networks that I'm active on, it feels very unmanageable. I appreciate the opportunity to connect with so many people from various points and places in my life, but I just don't know how to communicate to all of them. Not much of what I do is of equal interest to my dad, my cousin-in-law, my best friend from grade school and my nptech friends. So, since I have a healthy communication stream with the nptech commnunity on Twitter, and a way of staying in touch (as Twitter is very tenuous) via LinkedIn, I might whittle my friends on Facebook down to the non nptech crowd, too.

I stopped doing the ping-style broadcasting across networks some time ago, and the best thing about the new Facebook interface was that I was able to create a group called "notweets" and make that my default update view, effectively screening them out. I use a Facebook plugin that cross-posts tweets to Facebook if they have the hashtag "#fb". but I use it sparingly.

I can appreciate "de-friending" people with whom you have a strictly professional relationship. I don't mind connecting with people on FB when my primary connection with them is professional, but I do hope that there is an understanding that the primary communication with FB is personal interest. If you want to know more about me personally, great. Don't judge, and if you're not interested, let's connect on Linkedin.

Twitter is where the waters are a bit murkier for me. There the personal meets the professional in a way that is a little muddy, and that works. There is a time of day that I tweet articles of a more professional nature, and after 5:00 pm and on the weekends, I may tweet about the movie I'm going to with my sweetie, and the new restaurant we're trying.

There may be crossover (I have some of the same friends on all of my networks), but the audiences are entirely different.

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