This week, Facebook made it clear that it wants to become the hub for even more of our online experiences through enhanced levels of integration with other services and serendipitous sharing of our real-time actions using the “open graph”. No doubt we will all drown in a sea of information overload if we try to keep up with everything that our friends are up to as Facebook literally is pointing a firehose full of detailed information about our online lives to anyone thirsty for information. Even obsessive Facebook lurkers and stalkers are going to find it difficult to keep up and may be gasping for some fresh air. The implication is that if all of us are going to share exponentially more bits and pieces of ourselves, we must find new approaches to deal with the information flow. Here comes some such ways:
- Filter: Some will embrace the use of the “lists” feature in Facebook and simply choose to follow people in some categories more religiously than others. This makes sense if there are some people that you definitely do not want to miss any updates from such as your “Family” or “Close Friends.” Judging by initial reactions, some have found these prepopulated lists distracting but the important thing to realize is that you can edit and take control of who ends up on these lists.
- Search: Even if Facebook has gained notoriety as a perfunctory search engine, at least it can be used to quickly get the scoop on what specific individuals have been up to before you are about to meet them at a dinner party or before you are about to present a boss or a customer with a request of any kind. Given that people choose to share more updates as “public”, this strategy doesn’t necessarily require that you have befriended each other on Facebook before you do this.
- Browse: Some may find inspiration from occasional showers of serendipitous discovery by occasionally diving into the stream of Facebook updates with the goal of finding things they never would have thought of searching for themselves. Indeed, armed with much more detailed information about someone’s friends, Facebook is likely to deliver many interesting discoveries to users going forward.
- Trust: The final resort may be to simply trust that Facebook is going to ensure that the experience will not be so dismal after all. This requires that Facebook learns how to distinguish between so-called “Top Stories” to be featured on ones wall and other, less news-worthy updates. Some may try to game the system and resort to excessive updates of their “relationship status,” etc, to get attention, but again, it will be Facebook’s task to sort these things out.
The above approaches can obviously be used in combination. Can you suggest other ways short of logging off completely to deal with Facebook information overload?