April 17, 2009

Hyperconnected


In a recent blog post Joyce Valenza over at the School Library Journal said she was feeling anxiety and guilt about being "hyperconnected."

This is something we need to chew over, people.  There seem to be many in her boat and we need to deal.

The first problem is the anxiety.  Now her anxiety is different than some others and I want to mention both types here.  Hers cmes from being "hyperconnected" as she calls it.  The other type is trepidatious.  They are afraid or unconvinced that all these new online and connectivity tools are all they're cracked up to be but feel guilt at not knowing or not being a part of something others say is so wonderful.

For the hyperconnected:
  • One in One Out:  There are only so many hours in the day.  You can also only respond to so many inputs at a time.  By inputs I mean your home voice mail, your cell voice mail, your home email, your work email, your inbox, your Facebook account, your Twitter account, your RSS feed reader, the six discussion forums you contribute to and so on.  I would suggest you make a list of all of your inputs and take a cold hard look at them. Prioritize.  Take away or combine as many as you can.  I personally deleted my Facebook and don't really contribute much to the Nings I have pages on.  This blog, my RSS reader, and a small and limited Twitter circle is more than enough for me.  It's all about balance.
  • A Cooling Off Period:  You just heard about a great new service!  You can't wait to try it out and immediately blog/Twitter/Pageflake it!  Whoa, Hoss.  Take a minute.  Write it down on a list of things to review tomorrow.  Bookmark it for later.  Take some time to get to know it.  Ask yourself what you want to use it for.  Would it be worth giving up one of your current inputs for?  Would it be a simple matter of switching platforms or is this a whole other ball o'wax?  
  • Keeping Up With the Joneses: You notice that someone you follow is promoting a great new service!  You have a measly tired old watchyamacallitt and they are showing off the dazzling attributes of this new, improved and much prettier-designed thingamajiggy! You rush off to switch platforms...  Again, wait.  Think about One In One Out.  Think about Cooling Off.  Sure, maybe it looks better or has more features or does things your current input can't do.  But do you really need those things?  How much will you use them.  I see a lot of blogs with little widgets the author has slapped up without much thought.  Do you really need to know where in the world our readers are?  Maybe you do, maybe not.  But think about it.  Do you really need a calendar/countdown/random quote widget?  Only you can tell, but take the time to consider it.  Just because Seth or Merlin or whoever does it or has it doesn't mean you do too.
For the trepidatious:
  • Jump In: I know, I just got through telling people to cool off and now I'm telling you to jump in?  What gives?  Because they already have too many inputs and need a filter.  You, on the other hand have one or two and are wondering about trying Twitter and/or Facebook and/or a wiki.  Go ahead, try it out.  Give it at least a few weeks to see how it works for you.  That's the important point.  Facebook works for many, but not for me.  I'm already in contact with the people I want to be in contact with and have no need to self promote more than I already do.  I'd rather spend the time working on this blog or living my life.  I have specific periods of time that I am online.  I have my online plate full.  I'd rather spend that time on the few things I know well than a million things that I can't keep updated.  But you don't have that problem.  I'm not saying to join Twitter just because your friends told you it's the best thing evah.  I'm telling you to give it a try.  Twitter is one of those things that you can't do "right" or "wrong."  You just do it your way and see if it's of value to you or not.  If it is, you'll have a new way to connect with favorite people and organizations.  If it's not, no prob.  Delete the account and move on.  I had a Facebook account for more than six months before I took it out of my basket of tricks.
  • Why?  Why do you want to try a wiki/social network/blog, etc.  Is it because you have something to say or just because you keep hearing things from your kids/students/ presenters/bloggers?  Some of these things can be just plain fun.  Some of them will increase your effectiveness as a professional.  Some of them are both.  Some of them are neither.  Which ones are which?  That's the catch: it's different for different people.  Some people are great, born bloggers but have nothing to offer any other forum and they in turn have nothing to offer the blogger.  Some bloggers have dropped completely into Twitter or some other form of micro-blogging and it fits them like a glove.  I'm not saying not to at least acknowledge what all those presenters/bloggers and others are pushing.  That's why I said jump right in and try it out.  But then it'll be up to you to let what works for you to filter up and what just doesn't to filter down.
Part of it's connectivity and part of it is commitment.  I have a simple make-a-call cell phone. It's mostly so I can stay in touch with my family.  It doesn't get much of a signal in the school building but that's fine with me.  Twitter is blocked in my district.  These two things lead me to only check my Twitter account in the afternoons for a certain window of time.  This is a limitation, but it works for me.  It keeps me from spending too much time on it when I shouldn't but it's there when I need it.  The same might go for you with other tools.

So get rid of the guilt and anxiety and trepidation.  Relax.  Have fun.  Set some limits.  Do more with less and enjoy yourself.  And be sure to comment on my blog, link to me on Delicious, or send me a tweet and let me know what you think!

(image cc "mama sita")


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4 comments:

Ms. Yingling said...

Great post. I don't have an answering machine, and my teen always has my cell phone, so that helps. E mail and blogging are really the only technology I want to deal with now. How did we teach before e mail?

Teacherninja said...

Ms. Y: I only taught for a year or so without e-mail and we just had to check those mailboxes of ours all the time. Now I feel twitchy if the server is down for more than an hour.

JenFW said...

I'm still struggling to find balance. I feel pressure from many sources to do it all, and I simply can't. I don't even want to, but how do you choose what's best?

I know there's no best. Still, it's hard. I'm saturated, and I suspect readers are as well.

I also don't feel every move I make is worth sharing. Does anyone really care what five cars I've owned or what 1980s tv character hair-do I should sport? I don't, why should anyone else?

Teacherninja said...

Don't let the pressure get to you. I'm always asked about Facebook and I just say, "I don't Facebook." And if you don't think it's worth sharing, it's probably not. And just because some do doesn't mean it is. Twitter is like a big water cooler and I was never one for much hanging around the water cooler. No pressure. Do what's best for you.