Libraries, the universe and everything

November 3, 2010, 14:10
Filed under: Social media

How ironic. Today is apparently National Stress Awareness day. I found out about this through a feed in my Google reader, and currently my biggest source of stress comes from social media of this very sort.

I’ve got myself connected to a fantastic bunch of people on Twitter, joined a couple of groups on LinkedIn, started this blog, and subscribed to all sorts of interesting and relevant RSS feeds, to say nothing of email correspondence and catching up with friends on Facebook. Some of this is work-related, and can legitimately be done in working hours, but lots of it is not, and my lunch break is a finite resource. Throw in busy evenings and weekends, and it’s clear that I’m rapidly losing control.

How to go about addressing all this? Having a smart phone does at least allow me to use odd moments to check things out, though this is really limited to filling the odd few minutes here and there, and I commute to work by bicycle so no opportunities for reading then! I’m currently struggling to come up with a workable solution, and in my most gloomy moments I’m tempted to just abandon the whole lot – though on balance I think that would effectively be cutting off my nose to spite my face.

So, here are some of my questions, and I’d really appreciate it if you could let me know your thoughts or strategies in the comments.

  • How do you keep up without burning out?
  • How do you separate the useful content from the merely interesting?
  • How do you catch up when you’ve been away from it all for a while?
  • Do you use a platform to bring these things together (eg. Brizzly, HootSuite, etc)?
  • Are there any other questions I should be asking?
  • Am I taking it all too seriously?

Please help!

7 Comments so far
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I’m sure I read (or bookmarked to read) a good post about this a while back. But I can’t remember where, or what I would have tagged it with. How appropriate!


Comment by Girl in the Moon

I know that feeling!!


Comment by Emma Davidson

Some good questions – I wish I could answer them all! I don’t think anyone’s come up with one approach that would work for everyone, but here’s a few tips that help me out:

– Be selective. You don’t have to subscribe to every blog you stumble across! I tend to assume that anything really earth-shattering that crops up in a blog I don’t follow will eventually be flagged up in one of the blogs I do follow, so it doesn’t matter too much if I miss the occasional bit

– If you use Google Reader, the “trends” bit can be really useful (you’ll need to click the plus button next the “home” to see this, it’s something like the 7th option listed). This will show you which feeds post most often, and which ones you’re not actually reading. Use this to weed your RSS reader – if you’re following a high-volume blog but you only look at a few articles in it, unsubscribe!

– With regards to catching up when you’ve been away, the “mark all as read” button is your friend. This goes for emails and RSS feeds. By all means scan through first to see if there’s anything urgent, but don’t try and read everything – it will drive you insane! I used to hate doing this, I hated the thought that I’d missed something, but I’ve got over that now. See my first point – if something is important, it’ll crop up again somewhere you’ll see it

Those are my basic tips, I’m sure lots of people have much better advice! Personally, I don’t use any dashboards or anything to draw content together, never found one I like using, but I know lots of people do find that an easier way to keep up. Personal preference, I guess. And no, you’re not taking it too seriously – information overload is a serious problem! This may be a cliche but I find the trick is to think of the information flow as a river – you can drift along it, dip in occasionally and see what you find, but you don’t need to drink the whole lot 🙂


Comment by woodsiegirl

Thank you for this – all good advice. I do use Google reader and didn’t know about the trends thing so will definitely be checking that out. I do try to do the ‘mark all as read’ thing, but think I need to get even more ruthless! I love the river analogy too.


Comment by Emma Davidson

Hi Emma,

I’ve just coming out the other end from a very stressful few months at work so I know where you’re coming from.

In terms of managing information overload…

Twitter – I treat this like conversations in pubs. I can’t listen to all the conversations, but I focus on ones that interest me. Keeping the metaphor going: I also can’t be in the pub all the time (my metaphoric wife would go mad). If there are conversations or hastag tweets I want to keep I use something like twapperkeeper, but in general I treat all twitter conversations as in the here and now and don’t worry if I miss anything.

Blogs and feeds – I gave up long ago trying top keep up with all the fantastic stuff people are writing about. I now only actively follow about half-a-dozen blogs that I feel are very important for me. The rest of the blogsphere I use as and when I need it…treating it more like journal articles to be searched and researched when I’m working on a particular project or researching a particular technology.

Facebook – I’ve never used this for workie things and keep this for personal contact with friends and family. I’m increasingly losing interest in FB and only use it occasionally now.

LinkedIn – I use this very infrequently. Perhaps others have found this useful, but I haven’t found a need for this network as yet.

Mailing Lists – I’m currently subscribed to around 35 mailing lists. I skim read the things that look mildly interesting, and take time-out to read the things that seem very interesting. Most of the stuff I ignore if I feel it isn’t relevant to me. I do post questions from time-to-time…and also answer questions or chip in with advice if I feel it is warranted. I’m not bothered if I miss posts because it is always possible to search the mailing list archives if you have a specific issue.

I think basically what I’m saying is don’t stress about it all….one person cannot possible digest all the information produced by thousands of people daily. Just try to figure out what is the most important information and focus in on that. That’s my strategy anyway 🙂

Hope that helped a bit,


Comment by Andy Ekins

Hi Andy, thanks for this. I especially like the Twitter advice – I feel like I have a bit more control over my feeds and email but get hung up on the amount of potentially great info I might be missing by not continually checking Twitter. The pub conversation idea is really sensible and a much more sane way of handling it!!


Comment by Emma Davidson

I am presently going through all that stress that comes along with social media. It was troubling me so much that I made a post about it only very recently. (Check it out Maybe my subsequent posts will have answers to some of your questions!


Comment by kendrafowler

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