With a career that included nearly twenty years at Apple, it should come as no surprise that I have seen many forms of electronic communication come and go.
My kids were early users of AOLs chat rooms, and I at was Apple before AppleLink even existed. When I started in 1984, we got one email a week. I even remember Apple’s eWorld.
I have been quick to try most forms of electronic communication. I built my first webpages with Adobe Pagemill in 1994 and went on to use an internal website that I created as a very effective team building tool.
I have been blogging since 2004 and have used almost all the popular platforms, some of which have disappeared. I now focus most of my efforts on Typepad and a WordPress site on my own domain, CrystalCoastLife.com. However, I still have active blogs at WordPress, Squarespace and Blogger.
Last year I started evaluating how I was spending my time on the web. I was spending a lot of time on the City-Data forum for our area. While it wasn’t a waste of my time, it wasn’t a very productive use of my hours. I got very little back for my substantial efforts so I quit posting there.
I have been using Foursquare for a while, and have had some fun with it, but one day it dawned on me that Foursquare was one of the least productive things that I do on the web.
The information that I got back from Foursquare was questionable at best, and few of the specials offered for users amounted to very much. On top of that, I found it much easier to use Google maps and Latitude to communicate with the people who really need to know where I am. I might not completely stop using Foursquare, but I doubt you will see me at the top of the leader board again. It might hurt my Klout rating, but I am not going to lose any sleep over that.
Twitter is something that I actually find very interesting, and I also believe that I get back as much or more as I put into my tweets. I will probably keep tweeting and regularly visit my Tweeter feed.
Facebook is an interesting challenge, I find it useful for communicating with some folks who are hard to communicate with using more traditional methods. However, I have found Facebook to be of little or no use in a business sense. It is also easy for it to be a distraction from more important things.
LinkedIn has proved to be valuable for staying in touch with business colleagues and getting opinions on important things. I have also found ActiveRain very useful for staying connected with Realtors® outside my immediate geography.
Google+ which I have just started using seems to have some potential and a way to communicate with people without the means of communication getting in the way. Actually I think that I am interested in Google+ mostly because Facebook seems to have become unwieldy. The information that I get at Facebook can sometimes be marginal at best. Most of the people I would like to hear from on Facebook, rarely post anything, so it ends up being another one way street. Facebook is a good way for me to get information out to some people, but it turns out to be a poor way for me to hear back from people whose opinions I would value.
That leaves email and text messages. Email is something which I still value, and fortunately communicating by email just seems natural since I have been doing it for so long. I give my Droid smartphone credit for keeping me from being a failure at text messages. I hated doing them on earlier phones where you had to hit a key multiple times to get the right character. Now I seem to have a little more credibility in texting with my grown kids who depend on it far more than I do.
As I look at the ways in which I communicate electronically, I want to make certain that I do not let electronic communication get in the way of real human interaction. When I took the picture in this post, I was walking with my wife on the boardwalk in our waterfront community by the White Oak River. Even the act of taking the picture was a distraction from an important real life interaction, and I am guilty of that far too often. If you add checking in with Foursquare to the same situation, I think it takes away some precious moments that I would rather enjoy with the real live person beside me as opposed to with my electronic friends.
I have also gone to point of turning off the notification sounds on my Droid smartphone so that I will not be tempted to look at new emails. They can wait until I am not in the presence of someone who really deserves my attention.
It is really nice to be electronically in touch with the large number of friends that I have around the world, but it is much more important tht electronic communication not get in the way of the very real and personal communication that needs to be at the heart of my life.
I will keep looking at how I spend my time electronically with the hopes of making sure it is actually worth the time it takes away from my life in the real world.