Social media overload? MSNBC and sloppy journalism

OK. Now I have to write about it.

Two people have sent me an article from MSNBC from last week entitled “Beware of social networking overload.” The author is Eve Tahmincioglu (imagine having to pronounce that last name for your teachers), but this article is maddening to me.

I am of the school that increasingly, “traditional” journalism is more about having headlines designed to garner eyeballs or sell papers — and this article proves my point. Among the things that Eve brings up are the following points:

Here’s what people have been asking me lately: “Is it enough just to be on LinkedIn and Facebook?” “I just got an invite from a friend who’s on Plaxo. What is it and should I join?” “Will I dilute my networking effectiveness if I’m on MySpace, LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter?”

I know, there’s a hint of desperation in the air because of the tough economy, and everyone wants to have lots of connections just in case layoffs are looming. But beware. You might end up with social networking overload.

AAAARRRGGGGHHHHH.

I have said this in my class before and will say it to anyone who will listen: THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS “INFORMATION OVERLOAD” IF YOU DO NOT ALLOW IT TO EXIST.

Point #1: plenty of people, myself included, choose to be on Facebook, LinkedIn,Twitter and other social networking sites (I am experimenting with Identi.ca too), and I have a blog too. These are opt-in/optional tools, however. Sure there are some of my Tweeps out there who spend way too much time bouncing back and forth, but no one is twisting their arms. And almost every single social media relationship into which I have invested time and effort has led to meeting someone in “first life.” And I don’t mean dating, I mean things like participating in Blog World Expo (shameless plug, but I’ll be speaking there in September).

Point #2: this is sloppy journalism. There are plenty of aggregator sites out there like FriendFeed that do the work for you and pull all of this together. I check the automatic email or the site once every couple of days to see what the people in my online social networks are up to. Aggregator sites put everything in one place.

Point #3: “There is desperation out there about the economy?” Nice tie in. Sure, there is. But being on a social network is only (if you are lucky) ten percent of what is required to get a good job – and many postings on things like Facebook (keg stands) can have the opposite effect in terms of getting in the door for an interview.

Final point: do your research, Eve. Overload only exists when you choose to let it. And there are plenty of ways to pull everything into one place so you can keep up with all of your buddies online.

Mark

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Comments

  1. But Mark, she wasn’t talking about you.

    You’re an online strategist, a PR pro, a social media practitioner. Being networked on all these sites is in your professional blood. In addition, you likely feel somewhat required to take part in all of these networks because it’s tied into what you do for a living.

    She’s likely writing that piece for a lot of the working professionals who are getting all sorts of information on this network, on that service, etc.

    It may be sloppy journalism, and perhaps she should be explaining what FriendFeed is, but FriendFeed is still largely unknown as a whole. So to the reader, it would be just another intimidating thing they must know.

    Her point seems to be – and this can relate to the many people out there that don’t see social media as part of their job description – that all of these sites and services are overwhelming and that many of those that join end up getting overloaded unintentionally.

  2. Jonathan,

    Thank you so much for reading and contributing to my blog. I checked out marketitingconversation.com and like it.

    I think your point is well-taken, that the article is geared for the masses, rather than the propeller-heads such as myself.

    That said, I am a huge fan of balanced articles and a mortal enemy of semi sensationalist journalism.

    I really appreciate your comments and will take some more time poking through your blog.

    Thanks again for reading.

    Mark

  3. Hey Mark! I happen to like the propeller on your head, looks great…

    I agree that this seems to be sensationalist journalism, but Jonathan has a really great point. I find that when I’m talking about what I do to friends & family, they get quickly lost when I’m describing all the different networks. They like to package things neatly into boxes (“…ok, so Flickr does photos, LinkedIn is professional, Facebook is college…what? It’s not just college? and you have professional connections there too?…I thought that’s what LinkedIn was for…” etc.)

    It’s daunting to the under-initiated. The uninitiated just go turn on the TV.

    The crack about downsizing and the economy, while sensationalistic, is probably a factor. Networks are key to finding a new job, so more networks are better, right?

    To people wanting to learn more, I typically refer them to LinkedIn, Facebook, and God help me Twitter (so flaky and yesterday the whale got so hungry it ate everyone’s friends and followers).

    Great post…this attention crash stuff seems to pop up every now and again, then go away…

    Jen

  4. Hey Mark,

    I don’t enjoy being called sloppy but I’m open to any criticism if I can learn from it and get better at what I do. I’m not sure your criticism here really helped me out but I’d be interested in hearing more.

    It’s great to hear you’re able to keep up with so many social networking sites, but alas, not everyone can, aggregators or not.

    I have gotten tons of emails from people who believe they need to have hundreds of friends on every site out there and the thought of it is driving them crazy. The bottom line is they don’t.

    Because of what we do we have to luxury to play around with all these new great sites, but there are many professionals out there scrambling to keep their jobs or find new ones that don’t.

    If I had time, I would definitely attend the Blog Expo, being I’m a blogger myself. I would have stopped by to say hello.

    And by the way, my name is pronounced, tach-min-gio-lou.

    Best,
    Eve

  5. Mark Story Says: September 6, 2008 at 6:17 am

    Eve,

    Thank you for finding and commenting on my blog. After the original post, as you have seen in some of the comments, I got taken to task by my regular readers for the blog post — specifically, the word “sloppy.” In hindsight, they — and you — are right.

    Your response was polite and dignified, and I am pretty sure that my post was not. So this is my way of saying that I was wrong to call your piece “sloppy” and have been firmly put in my place first, by my regular readers.

    In print journalism, I would issue a “correction,” but I think that, with your permission, I am going to write a follow-up post pointing out what you have said — along with my regular readers.

    Honestly, in hindsight, my post was a bit of a cheap shot and your response was dignified and polite – I owe you a “do-over.” So stay tuned.

    And thank you again for commenting.

    Mark

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