Making Sense of the Absurd Amount of Data We Must Filter: Existential Social Networking

 is a term applied to a school of 19th- and 20th-century philosophers who, despite profound doctrinal differences, shared the belief that philosophical thinking begins with the human subject—not merely the thinking subject, but the acting, feeling, living human individual.In existentialism, the individual’s starting point is characterized by what has been called “the existential attitude,” or a sense of disorientation and confusion in the face of an apparently meaningless or absurd world. Existentialism on wikipedia.

Our problem is Not Information Overload, it is Filter Failure. (a phrase that makes more sense every minute with every new technology or buzz) We can’t afford to be asleep and work in social media. We can’t possibly keep track of even 10% of the important developments, but it is critical to know and manage the 5 – 8% of the data stream that you do try to keep up with. In this post I will provide some strategies for tuning up and refining your filter system.

First be aware of your meta inputs: facebook, twitter, linkedin, news, and blogs
Next are the direct inputs: email, rss, iGoogle (custom homepages)

Then you have to break your info gathering in to timed chunks. If you are barraged by information all day it will be harder to separate your work (output) from the constant influx of information. I tend to check my feeds (inputs) at several routine times during the day. When I am done, I try to stay focused on my objectives and not let the input channels “leak” into my focused work time.

And then “as a filter” I do my part in curating the information that I am interested in. I am curating mainly for myself, but as people find my social media interests mirror their own they will follow me on twitter or read/subscribe to my blog. At the same time I am pulling down my inputs I will rebroadcast or tag certain information for my own recall, but often for the benefit of others. If you follow me or the “#social” hashtag on Twitter you are likely to see several posts from me during the day. And on facebook you may be overwhelmed by my consumption and production of “content.” A recent friend told me they were giving me my own group on facebook so I would not block out all the posts from other friends. And I will often bookmark valuable information on Delicious for quick tagging and retrieval.

Other than that I try to write a post a day on that further refines my ideas and focus around social media. I have learned, am learning, that content other than social media strategies, belong elsewhere. I am focusing this blog more directly.

So, I am a filter. I am not “curating” my social media inputs for anyone else, but indirectly I guess I am providing a service of “curation,” but not at the expense of creating content and opinion myself. If you are only curating, you are not really creating content. So tools like and other “publishing” platforms can be self-deluding. If you are publishing your “daily” but not adding anything to the conversation I’m not all that interested in subscribing to your output as one of my inputs. If you write something original and thought-provoking, I will gladly add you to my stream as an input.

It’s all about I & O. Get it under control and you can process more information while keeping your focus.

@jmacofearth (also seen on Google+: jmacofearth)

This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. Hi John,

    Totally love the image you’ve drawn out here, sums the issue nicely.

    IBM recently highlighted 4 key challenges faced by CMO’s in their interviews with 1,734 CMOs across 64 countries: Data Explosion, Social Media, Proliferation of Channels and Devices and Shifting Consumer Demographics. So getting back to your point out here, one needs to be able to filter thru the sea of data, it’s definitely challenging for everyone.

    I’ve visualized these challenges and their key suggestions out here: Visually Explained: IBM Global CMO Study 2011 at #IBMCMOSTUDY

    What you think about their suggestions? Would be great to hear your thoughts.


    Sanjay Shetty

    1. Thanks Sanjay. Let me look at the IBM CMO study and get back to you. Where should I reply?

      1. Out here or on g plus or my blog or mail me at my last name @ hotmail thanks. Looking forward to interesting conversations

  2. Hi John – Great post.  I’ve noticed the same problem of information overload/filter failure, yet this is a topic that does not seem to get a lot of attention IMO.  It seems that the new Google Plus Your World is an attempt to address a similar issue.  Plus, I’ve noticed a general shift towards curated content.  Do you have any recommendations or comments about other good sites or apps that are helping address the overload problem?

    1. “information overload/filter failure” yes, I think we’ve got to filter better. have you checked out, I like their topic boards. curated leadership

      1. Hadn’t heard of it (or maybe just vaguely heard of it)…looks useful!  Thanks!

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