It seems as though the shift in the mainstream media to an entertainment model rather than a news model was complemented perfectly by the emergence of blogging. In the wake of the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal, where what organizations heard almost became more important that what they could prove, the rise and popularity of 24-hour news networks opened an avenue for blogs and self-proclaimed experts.
In the first few years of blogging (2003-2005), the mainstream media seemed to reject blogs more than they embraced them. Now, realizing that some very good journalism can come out of blogging, we seem to fit right in with the 24-hour news model.
Unfortunately however, in the communications sphere, blogging presents pressure to news organizations. Gone is their luxury of preparing a factual story over a period of hours. We can report on stories and accumulate comments while they write and fact check and then re-write and re-check. Journalistic standards be damned. The bloggers can publish and amend stories as complaints or corrections roll in (see also: Fox News).
The biggest breakthrough of blogging into our mainstream media was undoubtedly seen during the Iranian election and citizen journalism through Twitter. The mainstream media, mainly CNN, had no choice but to embrace the technology as a simple journalistic tool to the point where live tweets were read on air in place of content created for broadcast. In the absence of information coming out of Iran by traditional sources, the micro-bloggers became king.
Now Twitter has turned into more of a distraction than it has a tool. Social media tools serve as perfect time-wasters to help fill in those 24 hours. Joe19 in Michigan apparently has some brilliant insights. How the hell else did he get on TV?
It doesn’t seem as if blogging is going away, either. Arianna Huffington’s regular appearances on cable news networks, experts and bloggers yelling at one another, and the inclusion of bloggers as a part of news organizations show that embracing blogging will prove much more fruitful than rejecting it.
Now is the time of year where people start to clean out closets, getting rid of the things that they will never need or use again. We make resolutions that we’ll be lucky to keep past February. For 2010, why don’t we make a resolution with some staying power: cleaning ourselves up in the social media world.
Aaron of TechThinker.com points out rightfully that:
Having fewer followings mean you will pay more attention to your feed. This gives you a better opportunity to interact and mingle with the people you follow.
Whether you’re a niche blogger or just someone whose Twitter feed is cluttered with users that you marginally care about, you’ve probably got a few people that you could unfollow without thinking twice. You’re not throwing out a winning lotto ticket, you’re just choosing to mute one of the many voices in the online community.
Identify what kind of people you want to hear from. If you’re mainly writing about different kinds of tea, does that ski instructor you never communicate with really need to be followed? Probably not.
The way I eliminate any kind of clutter in my life is to single out a specific object or person and ask myself, “Am I ever going to need/use this/look at it/read it/communicate with them again?” If the answer is an immediate yes, I keep it. If I hesitate, even for a second, it has to go. The item or person you’re following probably doesn’t mean much in the long run.
Don’t do it all at once. Unfollow a few people at a time so you don’t overwhelm yourself. Make sure you’re happy with your stream of incoming tweets and as soon as you’re not, identify what you don’t like and eliminate it.
So you just unfollowed 100 people, now what? Find more people that interest you! Sites like WeFollow.com and Twellow.com categorize users by subject matter, self-imposed tags, amount of followers and influence. Search for “tea” and find the loudest voices in the tea community. If you love tea, you’ll most likely want to hear what they have to say over that ski instructor you unfollowed before.
I use Twitter as an example for this post but the same principles can be applied to any network. Cleaning out is healthy and you shouldn’t feel bad about honing down whose information you want to receive. The social media world is a world of cheap commodities. Following and unfollowing can be done with such relative ease that adding and subtracting from the number of people you follow should be a quick and painless action.
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