Filtering the Internet Noise

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My friend Bill posted a link to “A Day In The Internet” that started a discussion about the signal to noise ratio on the Internet.

I commented briefly, but realized that my comment was turning into more of a post of its own.  So here’s a more complete comment on Bill’s post.

As I said in my comment, I’m not exactly of the same generation that Bill is.  There are roughly 15 years between us.  At this point that doesn’t matter much.  But in Internet time, most of my peers are on Facebook and Twitter because someone in their family is or because someone like me finally convinced them it was worthwhile.

I expect a lot of them think, “What’s the point?”  Why follow or friend all those people unless you are going to pay attention to everything they write?  It just becomes so much noise.

Or how about all that email… or all those pictures… or all those…?

All noise.

But is it?  Or is it any more noisy that it was before the Internet?

Prior to the Internet, you either met people because they belonged to the same organizations (church, school, community group) that you did, or you stayed home and watched TV.

Prior to the Internet, you were conditioned to read everything that was put in front of you.  That is, everything that wasn’t junk mail.

In a way, it was all manageable.  You only got a few personal letters a week, so you could read them.  Most of the time they were from someone who you really cared about but was distant.

Then came e-mail.  I hope I don’t offend anyone, but… I don’t read all of the email I get even if they are from friends.  I just get too much.  I read enough to find out what it is about.  Then I either read it, schedule it for later, or I file it.  Most of my mail doesn’t make it any further than reading the subject line.

Now that we have Facebook, Twitter, and all the other “social media,”  I just carry that same sense of filtering on to those.  I follow 12,000 people on Twitter.  I don’t read everything.  Like Bill, I have an A-List.  People I really care about.  They get read right away.  My B-List is everyone else.  Once in a while, I look at what they’ve written.  Some get moved to my A-List.

So how do you manage the noise?  Let me know in the comments.

Other places talking about “Information Overload”

Why We Don’t Care About Information Overload – Tom Davenport … – I gave a presentation this week on decision-making, and someone in the audience asked me if I thought information overload was an impediment to effective decision-making. "Information overload…yes, I remember that concept. …

Shooting at Information Overload: Right Target, Wrong Weapon … – Tom Davenport’s “The Attention Economy” is the best information overload/attention management book I’ve read so far (despite several flaws). For that reason alone I avoided obvious, snarky rebuttal titles for this blog post such as “Why …

Information Overload: Americans Consume 34 GB of Data Daily … – They say the soul weighs 21 grams, and now we have a measurement of the American mind on any given day: 34 gigabytes. According to a University of California,

Information Overload Cure | Studenomics – After studying for a majority of the day I decided to work out and then work on a blog post. Unfortunately, I spent an hour reading personal finance blogs.

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