A Kink in the Fire Hose

How I Unfriended 160 People, Denied Skill Endorsements and Found Some Sanity

A few weeks ago, I found myself staring at a Facebook post that probably resonates with many of you. A “friend” had just indicated that they liked a particular link from The Oatmeal. It was a minor distraction, but for me it was the last straw on the proverbial camel’s back. I neither needed nor wanted this and the thousands of distractions that preceded it no matter how funny, ironic, or inspiring. I took the next 3 hours and unfriended this person and 159 others.

Immediately, my use of Facebook dropped to almost nothing, as I was not getting pinged with alerts to check my feed. Beautiful.

Yet, it leaves one to wonder: is there is any natural reprieve from this onslaught of social activity? How do we stay connected but still not suffer the rising tide of distracting content, direct ads, and subtle promotional marketing? This is not seemingly an easy answer, as previous attempts at using the more granular and one-thing-at-a-time filtering mechanisms in Facebook were getting me no where…I had to purge.

The purge is likely to be the answer for many for the foreseeable future. With so many channels of communication open, receiving too much social chatter is like a Web server backed up with too many requests…sometimes it’s easier to just bounce the server than kill threads one a time. But social networks, shopping engines, and media sites don’t appreciate this “screw it, I’m done” mentality and rather want to avoid it due to the vanity metrics that would be lost so quickly.

And that’s unfortunate, since I believe that shopping, socializing, and consuming content is an experience that the user should control, entirely. Imagine a big button in Facebook labeled “Shut off Ads for…days” or an Instagram option to “Go Private” with your photo stream. Or perhaps a mode in Amazon that extolled a link to “Browse like someone who loves books” even though Amazonian big data says I actually like to browse for UHD TVs…shhhh, I’m cultured I swear! I would pay for these options and I believe others would too.

In the past few days, I took my social decoupling a bit further and removed a lot of attributes about me on LinkedIn, including skills which I had been endorsed for that I really have no expertise in, and other services that track interests and demographics. I’ve noticed a much more dynamic and diverse set of content on at least my LinkedIn feed, but the fire hose of “stuff” in my feed continues to swell. I’m now left to wonder what a “purge” in LinkedIn would look and feel like, to myself and others.

Alas, though, the purge has given me back some sanity and I will likely do it again, probably no later than 3 months from now. I may even resort to digital hermit-ism if it comes to it, given how advanced search marketing is becoming…a dichotomy for someone in e-commerce. Will those of us in B2C product development and design ever learn to be more respectful of the fire hose we all have planted to our lips? Can I share content such as this article without contributing to others’ woes?


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