It all started quite innocently with trying to see what your friends on campus were up to, or to share and read what's happening around the world, and then as a desire to comment on information and news with ease.
Comment, mind you, which is very different from converse.
All of a sudden, you've got groups, lists, and circles to sort out. Dozens, then hundreds, then thousands of friends and followers.
Conversationalists, creators, critics, joiners, and spectators all seemingly looking like collectors these days.
Quantity continues to win over quality. As a recent article in TechCrunch exemplifies, much of the behavior by emulation is creating some confusion. Do we really have a friends and family problem? Do you, or don't you know who matters in your life?
Current tech solutions
My take is that the current crop of tech tools that help people sort through their friending and content indigestion is a solution in search of a problem vs. a class of truly disruptive technology. Does putting people in groups, circles, and lists help get to what you want to do? Do lists on Facebook make your life more enjoyable?
Be honest with yourself. Does it?
The premise in the article: Everyone has all these friends and they need to organize them, while a true statement, is not a true problem. Why did you friend [insert your number of] people to begin with?
I wonder what you would say if I asked you how many people you have in your private address book. Not the one on Plaxo, stop that. Focus on your truly meaningful connections. Then how many of those do you calls/emails frequently? (gmail actually knows that, it pulls up autofill using that sort criterion).
Organizing exploded lists in social networks *does not* solve a problem. Building better lists (= people, and relationships) needs to go hand in hand with filters (= the reason why you want to stay in touch). We don't need too many circles or groups for that, those people are top of mind.
However, it would be desirable to have access to the people *those* people regard as "go to". You're not going to find/see that on groups or circles, alas. Ever had a piece of information too valuable to share? Exactly, you're not going to post that anywhere. You do a private email introduction.
Even Harry Potter only shares what he knows with just a handful people — and he is a magician, for crying out loud. (I went to see the final movie in the series, last night. Good)
The third option: knowing why
What an algorithm is missing is "why?"
In control of what? What is the purpose of sorting? So you have a personal CRM on a public network? Here's how Facebook will steal your customers. That database you spent social ad money to attract? It's not YOUR database. It's Facebook's, too.
Shoham says, "One cannot master the social torrent without some algorithmic assistance, any more than one can navigate the web without algorithmic assistance." Thank heavens for saviors like him. I have no idea how civilization got to where it is, being social and all that, without the much needed algorithmic assistance.
Could we be following the advice and work of many who are living too much into their own academic/engineering world? My father never wonders about how he's gonna master the social torrent. He just wants to enjoy life through doing what he wants to do.
There is a reason why we're forgetting how to orient ourselves in a place without GPS, or how to transmit wisdom through poetry, art, and old fashioned thinking – Google. It makes it easy to delegate the thinking. People let Google do the sorting. And with that, we are in danger of being exactly wrong.
Rethinking what exists as lists, groups, and circles is not good enough. We need to work on tools that help people live meaningful lives. And we don't do that online. We do that in the real world.