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So much noise

Do you remember BBS's and Fidonet? Do you remember having to use a Modem to connect to the Internet through your phone line using either Compuserv, AOL or Prodigy? At one point or the other I used all three of them. I remember running Cross Connection BBS on all sorts of IBM compatible hardware. One of the computers had two 20 mb MFM hard drives that were so hot that you could heat up our apartment in the winter time. I remember how much I loved to learn about DOS and software back in those days. I remember staying up all hours of the night doing backups and waiting for people to dial our BBS phone number and connect to our computer.

One of the services that I provided for my users was the ability to download feeware software files, and to read and respond to message forums. I registered my BBS with , and subscribed to certain message feeds. Every night my computer would connect with its uplink provider and send up messages from my BBS and download more messages for my BBS users to read. That is how flame wars got started. Someone on a BBS that was subscribed to a particular Fidonet message base would start a conversation about some topic and then the flaming would begin.

Considering that I ran a faith based BBS it was not hard to attract those folks who were opposed to what are BBS stood for. After a while all of the messages going back and forth just became so much white noise. Before I knew it I got tired of the back and forth bickering and got burned out on it all. One day I remember a BBS in Houston Texas that offered its users a subscription option to use their BBS to get on this thing called the world wide web. You could dial into their BBS and then click on a link that would allow you to use your Netscape Navigator Browser to browse the Internet. I remember what a big deal that was. I also remember that with the slower modem speeds that browsing web pages was slow. Then again, most web pages consisted of nothing but a white background and links to other web pages with more links.

I remember how I loved to have the ability to make real connections with people from other cities and countries in the world. I remember how I would stay up all hours of the night and chat on IRC (Internet Relay Chat) and chat about all sorts of stuff. In years gone by people would go to the local barber shop or beauty salon to make personal connections. Now we can sit in the privacy of our own homes and use social media connections to make those connections.

Now at the blink of an eye, we have all sorts of web based portals at our disposal. MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIN, Foursquare, Twitter and Google Plus are just some of the major social media connections. MySpace is still online but I think that most folks have switched over to Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus for their social media needs. What drives us to be connected to one another and how meaningful are those connections? Do these connections add quality or quantity to our lives? I guess you get out of social media what you put into it. If you take the time to put yourself out there and make the connections with others you will find a lot of quality folks out there that you have things in common with. How much time are we willing to give up in order to make these connections? How consumed have we gotten by these social media portals?

Just the other day I watched a MSNBC special that was titled “The Facebook Obsession”. It is amazing how we will get online and share information with the world over social media. We feel safe and secure in our social media security bubbles and we throw caution to the wind. Social Media portals have become a source of information for both criminals and law enforcement agencies all over the world. If you want to track someone down all you have to do is find them on a social media portal and follow them to see what they are up to.

When does social media stop being a way to connect with our neighbors online and becomes an irritating white noise that starts to suck the life out of us? Are we obsessed with this connectivity to the point that we do not know how to step back from it all and take a deep breath? Are we able to dial back on our social media consumption or step away from it for a spell? When we start to feel like all of the connectivity is becoming white noise maybe it is time to evaluate why we are connecting and what we expect to get out of it. Social media usage can be very entertaining and it also can be a useful tool if used properly within the proper boundaries. Maybe I am not the only one with these thoughts or that struggles with all of this. I would be interested in hearing your thoughts.


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  1. Cheryl Smithem says:

    James, you’ve raised interesting questions. I believe social media have fundamentally changed the way we expect to consume information. And coupled with the rising price of gasoline, people are traveling less and so social media become a way for people to keep up with one another. It’s a boon for connecting and reconnecting.

    However as you point out there are perhaps opportunities that go un used as people say home, inside.

    I love technology too. I first put my hand on a computer in 1989 and learned what it would do. Then in 1990 when I went to work managing a nonprofit, I saw how easily we could keep records using the 8088 computer we had there. Then a few years later a donor purchased for the organization a “modern” computer with a modem that allowed me to use CompuServe! Wow! Not long after that, a colleague, let me use the Word Wide Web with his Netscape Navigator. It was an eye opener.

    My first classes for marketing on the Internet taught me to use Gopher, Veronica and Archie for research and file retrieval. Then I learned from a guy how to use that old 8088 to dial into the library and get files from their research system. I loved that. (Old DISCUS system.)

    Bottom line, I love how I as an information junkie, have the entire world of information at my disposal all the time. I don’t have to go anywhere to get my questions answered, I have the power right in my hands. The power of knowledge is real power!

  2. Cheryl

    Thanks for the detailed response. You have written the LONGEST response to any of my blog posts for the last 10+ years. LOL