For the most part, I’m a fuzzy lovable energetic creature (or at least I like to think so). But new technologies combined with information overload sometimes bring out the inner bitch in me. And then I feel guilty.
I am drowning in information overload. I cannot read everything that I want to, engage in conversations with everyone I’d like to, let alone deal with high-bandwidith content like video. Over the last decade, I’ve developed a set of coping mechanisms for dealing with online conversations. Ways of keeping myself sane amidst the onslaught. The problem is that each new genre of communication and consumption brings new challenges and forces me to adjust. And just when I think that I’ve got a grip on what’s going on, the genre gains mainstream adoption and I’m forced to get all rigid on people. And I hate that.
Let me be a little more concrete. And self-involved. I get hundreds of emails per day that I have to directly respond to. (Hundreds more get filtered into the “will read one day” folders that get very little attention.) I do a huge amount of my responding offline (on airplanes, public transit, cafes, etc.). Thus, messages with links take much longer to get my attention than messages without links. But there’s something nice about turning an INBOX into something manageable before people have the chance to respond. The problem with Web2.0 technologies is that each one wants to replace the INBOX (or at least be an additional channel). For example, there are private messages and comments on social network sites, direct messages and @replies on Twitter. There are blog comments. And RSS feeds. And then there are all of the online communities and bulletin boards and chat spaces that have evolved from those developed in olden days. For me, it’s too much. Too much I tell you. And we haven’t even gotten to voicemail, text messages. Let alone all that’s coming.
The onslaught of places to check makes me want to crumple. And, for better or worse, it’s simply 100% not manageable if I want to keep up my research and stay sane. So I’ve developed my own quirky habits to cope and rather than be flexible for others, I’ve become demanding. I check voicemail sporadically (so please don’t leave a message – send a text). I refuse to even check the private messages on social network sites (so if you’ve sent something there, I’ve never seen it). Because of how @replies are overloaded with retweets and references, I’m simply incapable of keeping up with the stream of directed @replies with requests to respond. And I almost never check online communities or bulletin boards and have bowed out from all collaborative projects that require that kind of engagement.
It’s terrible you see. It’s not that I *like* email (cuz goddess knows it’s been a long time since “you’ve got mail” made me do anything other than cringe). But I know how to manage it. Too many years of Getting Things Done training has taught me to manage it as a glorious ToDo list that can get resolved. But I don’t know how to meaningfully manage streams of content. And I don’t have the structures in place to deal with content in the cloud that requires connectivity. And I don’t like having to deal with Yet Another Walled Garden’s attempt to replicate email. For my own sanity, I need one pile of ToDo. So at the end of the day, the only channel that actually works for me is email. And if you need me to respond to something, don’t message me elsewhere; send me an email.
This is exactly the kind of issue that Bernie Hogan deals with in his dissertation. The complexities of multiple channels and people’s individual preferences. And there are huge issues here – should someone be flexible to others’ preferences or demand that others work around them? And here’s where I feel like a bitch. I’m asking people to work around me. Because I can’t cope with the alternative. And that makes me feel guilty and selfish. And I don’t know what to do about this. Le sigh. So please forgive me.
This article has been translated. En francais. Thanks Ulysse!