It all starts off innocently enough.
There you are, surfing the Web, and you come across a Web site like MySpace. Or maybe a friend invites you to be a part of Facebook. You click that button, enter your e-mail address, and — presto – you are in the network!
But one is never enough. You get another e-mail from another friend. How can you say no to them? You click yes, sign up and then you start sliding down a slippery slope. You show all the danger signs of social networking overdose!
In the last five years, social networking sites have filled the Web. From the early days of very general sites like MySpace and Facebook, the concept of networking sites has evolved. Among the categories of networking sites that exist today:
Blogging sites that link you to a network of your friends. Some sites, like LiveJournal, are standard blogs with networking features. Other sites, like Plaxo and Twitter, focus on the networking elements and their unique features. (The “twist” of Twitter is its limit on blog entries of 140 words or less.)
With such a flurry of activity and new sites popping up every day, what should you do? Clearly, you cannot subscribe to every social networking site on the Web. Even the most energetic, social person cannot spend every moment checking for new messages and new contacts. But how do you recover from your online OD?
Think about your goals. What experience do you want to take away from these sites? Is social networking primarily a social vehicle to keep in touch with friends? Are you focusing on expanding your list of professional contacts? Do you want to do both? Have an idea of what you want to gain from your interactions.
Evaluate. Take a look at the sites you are a member of. Pay close attention to the number of contacts or ”friends” you have on a site. Regardless of whether your focus is a social or professional one, it is important to make sure the time you spend there is effective. If you are a member of a site where you only have a friend or two, or have limited connections there, it may be time to consider eliminating your membership there.
Make it fun. BrightFuse, a partner site to CareerBuilder.com, is a professional networking site that hosts your online profile. While some of the professional networking sites can be very nondescript, BrightFuse incorporates some of the more fun, interactive elements of other sites and presents them in a fresh way. It also has a platform for users to post projects they are working on, which encourages feedback and collaboration.
The cure for networking overdose is simple: Dial it down a notch (or two)! Streamline the list of sites you visit. Although sites like Facebook can be useful for professional networking, most users want to keep their personal and professional networking efforts separate. So choose one or two sites for personal contacts, and a couple of sites for professional networking.
And if you get an e-mail from a well meaning friend inviting you to a new site, take a look at the site first and see how useful its features are before leaping in head first. You may also want to check with that friend or contact and see if they might be a member of a site you already belong to.