The past few weeks I have been in a crazy roller coaster preparing a public launch for a new service. It’s a lot of work, there are so many little and big details to take care of, a team of people working day and night to get things done. It’s a lot of fun too.
Last night, while I was finishing of some work, I looked back a little and found that my on-line behavior of the past weeks has changed a lot. I’ve spent less time on (social media) services that I am subscribed to. I haven’t been in Friendfeed discussions, Twittered less, Google reader is hopelessly out of control, and services like social median, twine, Facebook (I rarely use it, but people do try to friend me all the time) and many more that ping me for my attention haven’t gotten any attention at all.
The funny thing is that I have been interacting more than ever in this period. I have met and talked with many people spread around different time zones. But the way we met was very traditional. I used physical meetings, phone, skype, and (god forbid) old-fashioned e-mail. These weren’t all work related meetings. Actually, I’m thinking half of them had nothing to do with the work we’re facing. But because I’m spending a lot of hours working I find I spent less time on-line talking to “friends” in all kinds of social networks.
It looks like I have reached a social media saturation point. Balancing life and work, pleasure and profession, off-line and on-line, I find that many of the web 2.0 services we early adaptors boast about aren’t all that important. It seems to me that, unless you are making a living in this tech world as a blogger, tech evangelist or whatever, many of these services do not provide enough value to justify using them all the time. There isn’t a need for me to enroll in yet another Twitter variant called Yammer. Even if they did win some prize in some tech meeting. There isn’t really a need for me to check all tech discussions going on over at Friendfeed as these discussions rarely bring something new. There isn’t a need to follow TechMeme and other popular tech aggregation news sites as the news echoes its way into our lives.
That doesn’t mean that web 2.0 services are a waist of time. But at the same time, a lot of those services do not add real value to my personal life. If they did, I’d sure be spending more time on them. It might be great to be able to meet up with thousands of friends over on any social networking site. But I find meeting people I respect, family, friends, and professional colleagues more important. If I have to choose, due to time constraints for example, I notice now that I choose to narrow the circle of people that I interact with. And that is opposite to what social networks want us to do. They want us to widen our circle, as having a large network is more important to the service provider than providing value to the individual user.
It turns out I ended up using services that provide me, the individual user, value. It’s the problem of most social networks. As they all seem to choose the path of free ad-based business models they end up providing me less value and having a focus on enlarging the network. Most web 2.0 services have turned into a playground that way. They are fun to visit, but really not all that important. I love amusement parks, but I don’t need to spend every day or hour there. Maybe that is why “old fashioned” e-mail, or Skype, the place where I store my family photo’s, and my mobile phone are so much more important to me.
It’s because these services were build to provide me value, and monetize that value. Instead of web 2.0 services that offer me everything for free to lower the threshold of joining. Those services monetize the network with ads, not the value they provide me. That’s a bad choice. The threshold to join is low, but the threshold to ignore or leave is even lower. And because of that the service provider needs to focus even more on enlarging the network, making it easy on me to ignore the service. A catch 22 I’d rather not be in if I was a service provider.