Social Networking Digital Fatigue

I've been ruminating on this New York Times article that caught my eye before I went on vacation last week. Other than posting vacation photos on Facebook, and a few hours answering office emails, I was unplugged for almost an entire week, but I realized today it had been percolating while I wasn't thinking about it, as things often happen.

In the article, "For the Plugged-In, Too Many Choices", Stephanie Rosenbloom interviews a few social media uber users who are starting to feel digital fatigue and social media burnout.

Those who are connected (77% of the U.S. population as of 2010) have hopped onto the virtual social networking bandwagon in droves. This article is the second time in recent weeks that I've seen these stats cited:

Put another way: one in every four-and-a-half minutes spent on the Web is spent on a social networking site or blog. And last year the average visitor spent 66 percent more time on such sites than in 2009, when early adopters were already feeling digitally fatigued.

The relentless pressure to partake of the newest networks was underscored in June with the debut of Google+, Google’s social networking site. According to Nielsen, social networking is now the most popular online activity, ahead of sending e-mails, searching the Internet and playing games. 

I love my job and my personal social networking, I have to admit. I can talk your ear off about it if you get me started. I see the paradigm shift in communications, marketing, and branding that are happening with social networking every day, and the immense value of being involved. But, at the same time, I feel like my social networking, both for my job and personally, are incessantly hungry baby birds, constantly and loudly squawking for content, content, and more content.

I'm to the point now that for work, where I'm the social media manager for IBM Accessibility and have spent the last two years carefully and thoroughly building a following, that I dare not leave my hungry baby birds unattended for more than 12 hours, and one of my amazing colleagues, Fran Hayden, (yay, Fran!) backs me up when I'm out of the office. I know my hungry content chicks are in good hands when I'm away and Fran's on the job. But I've gotten the impression that she's always ready to hand the reins back as soon as I'm online again. :-)

I've mentioned this to several friends and peers, and they all agree I'm behind the times by not using an automated syndication service. I know there are a lot of them out there, but for now I'm resisting. I like tailoring my news, thoughts and messages to the channel I'm posting in: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, my blog, our internal IBM Connections communities.

And at the same time, I'm also watching my Klout and PeerIndex scores for both my professional and personal accounts, and realize how easy it would be to get sucked into the numbers game, yet completely accepting the value of metrics.

Have I hit the digital fatigue wall? Not yet, and I think I'll be safe from it for a while, as long as I disconnect and do my best to stay unplugged when I'm recharging my batteries on vacation. We'll see how I do in a few months on the beaches of Maui, lol.