Is Social Media Causing Attention Deficit Disorder?

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My Gosh! Take a step back and think about all of the channels of input screaming out for your attention. You have the constant deluge of Twitter, the pounding of your RSS reader from bloggers pushing out their content, you have publishing sites with articles, videos and podcasts, not to mention Facebook, MySpace, Ning and LinkedIn social networks to monitor and manage. FriendFeed, a social media aggregator, received a big investment because they claim to help manage this vast network of information.

Suddenly I envision the down pour of bits and bytes (ones and zeros shown in the Matrix) falling like rain on me. On one hand, it’s an exhilarating experience with fresh insights, thoughts, and knowledge continually running across my consciousness and readily accessible to pull and use as necessary. Yet on the other hand, as a marketer I am measured on productivity and a result (not just creativity) so turning off the ideas to execute requires a certain balance. It’s hard to pull the trigger when the next big idea could come in the next down pour.

I was listening to a podcast distributed by Provident Partners with an interview of Robert Scoble. I wrote about it in more detail at my iNET Interactive blog. But like I stated there, Mr. Scoble commented about how the new age of social media requires “attention management” more than time management (or as I prefer to call it “calendar management” based on my support of the Manager Tools’ podcasting lessons.” The point is that we have to pick and choose who to focus our attention on within the attention span we can dedicate towards specific tasks and among defined priorities.

I find this particular difficult. It reminds me of the one major lesson I learned while starting and managing my own company – the importance of focus. If we define our objectives and focus on achieving them then it is easier to set our attention on specific social media channels and the insights, ideas and knowledge they expose. Varying levels of priorities (work objectives, personal development objectives, family objectives, etc.) further help us define how to use our attention span to absorb the most relevant inputs.

I recall reading a book titled “Think Like a Genius.” And the one lesson I recall from it was the importance of understanding the way things work outside of our primary focus. In essence, the ability to think like a genius involves being able to make connections between different systems. When it comes to brainstorming and creativity, I have heard many times how great ideas are discovered by applying a process or system found in a non-related industry than our own.

For nurturing creativity, an outside, broad focus can help empower our focus on achieving specific goals which puts the whole issue of attention deficit disorder central to the management of social media. We want to take in as much input as possible for generating ideas while remaining focused on achieving our key priorities. It’s a process of sucking in the data, storing the stuff not immediately relevant and enacting what is relevant to towards accomplishing our immediate goals. If you fail to filter the data whether mechanically by using an application to organize and store it or mentally by defining your objectives and priorities, then anxiety can set in creating attention deficit and information overload.

For me, having access to a constant stream of great input is Nirvana but it can quickly turn ugly if I fail to manage my attention on the things that matter most. I have witnessed it over the years where people with focus manage to get the right things done and produce tremendous outcomes while others appear to be re-working the same problem again and again with little forward progress.

The new age of social media has the potential to pull down more and more workers if they don’t gain focus around their defined objectives and filter the need to know versus the nice to know on continual basis. Whether you’re learning how to better optimize your paid search campaigns, staying on top of the latest search engine optimization tactics or figuring out how to use social media to generate buzz for your company – keep in mind attention management and execute it wisely.

About the Author

Kevin Gold is Director of Internet Marketing at iNET Interactive, a social media company operating prominent online communities for technology professionals and technology enthusiasts. Kevin is a frequent contributing author to multiple publications including Search Marketing Standard, Practical eCommerce, DIRECT, Entrepreneur.com, ConversionChronicles.com, About.com, and On Target (Yahoo! Search Marketing newsletter).

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4 Comments

  1. I didn't even make it through this article... I got an e-mail that needed attention and then I lost interest.

  2. Not saying it was a bad article...just driving your point home (I think).

  3. Right On Kevin. My latest blog post addresses the same issue, in a more superficial manner of course. I am running into some seriously stressed people in todays workforce. Not too mention my own stress in dealing with the information fire hose. Too much information. Too much Do-It-Yourself Too little understanding (by executive types) of the time it all takes. Too many "experts", you and I included ;-) -T

  4. I was actually thinking about this yesterday. We are being pulled in so many directions, it is hard to keep up sometimes. Glad to hear I'm not the only one.