Pruning your social network connections?
This post began as a comment on a blog post by Matt Thommes titled “Pruning your social network connections,” which he published in June, 2010. It was brought to my attention by Diethild Starkmeth, who is an active contributor to the diigo group that has been set up to support a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) that we are both participating in (CCK12: Connectivism and Connective Knowledge). (Diethild also blogs at mariposa Monarca and and at The Third Place, and is known on Twitter as @dista11). When my comment grew to be longer than his post, I thought it was more appropriate to discuss it here. So,with thanks to Diethild, here ia an open response to Matt’s piece.
Thanks for your thoughtful post, “Pruning your social network connections”. Although it is now almost 1-1/2 years old, online social sites and practices continue to grow, so your points are even more relevant today.
Pruning network connections seems like a very sensible thing to do. I regularly block Twitter followers who seem to have interests that are very different tan mine. For example, yesterday, I blocked @SpankJenniMack, who describes her herself as follows:
I am a lifelong spanking enthusiast, spanking model, and blogger exploring the art of discipline and kink. Oh, and I’m not a brat. I’m not! I’m not!! I’m not!!!
Right. I don’t want to be followed by someone with her pants down, waving her arms wildly as she tries to pull mine down, too. Well, not in public, anyway. And I’m not interested in following her, either (she’s got 339 people chasing her already, and I don’t have the patience to wait my turn – even if I was just a tiny bit interested, which, as I’ve said, I most certainly am not).
I try to make strategic use of both Twitter and my blog. My blog header says that I’m interested in education, media, and design. That’s already a pretty Catholic collection (no, I’m not particularly interested in religion – I’m a fallen Catholic, if the truth be known, and I’m not blaming @SpankJenniMack, either, or anyone even just a little bit like her, not in the least).
I use Twitter to connect to people who might be interested in the things I blog about. I tag messages that might be of interest to people who are doing the same online courses, and I send direct messages to friends who I think really need to see something I’ve come across. My friends do the same for me. People who I’ve never met help me out this way, too. Its all about reciprocity – you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours, do onto others as you would have them undo you, that kind of thing. Whoa, is it getting hot in here, or what?
Where was I? Right. I like to be focussed and directional. I want to make the most efficient use of my time, and I want to mix with people like me, who think like me and who share my interests. But here’s my problem: sometimes, by complete accident, I come across someone from a very different background, with very different interests, and I see something they’ve done, or I read something they’ve written, and it just turns my brain inside out. Once I’ve settled down again, I find that I’m not quite the same person. The experience has changed me a little bit. I feel more awake and more alive. And I am grateful for the chance encounter that has shaken me up.
It’s true that we can’t really be friends with hundreds, or thousands, of other people. And we can’t follow more and more conversations simultaneously without feeling like we’re winding our way up the Tower of Babble. We can limit our exposure to strangers, and we can block them out when they gesture to us as we pass by. But we have to be careful that we don’t protect ourself too much. If we close ourself off completely from strangers, we risk finding ourself in a room of mirrors, where the only people we hear and see are those who reinforce our increasingly embedded beliefs and opinions. For our own good (and, sometimes, just for the fun of it), we have to leave at least one window open and one door unlocked.