An old school friend, with whom I had long since lost touch with, recently made contact with me via Facebook. It turns out we live in the same area and so naturally made time to meet over coffee. Hair is greyer or thinner; waistlines are undoubtedly thicker but much is still intact. Within the first few minutes we had worked out that it has been 33 years since we last saw each other. 33 years!
We swopped stories, caught-up, traded information concerning other ‘lost’ schoolmates, laughed a lot and dusted off and refreshed old memories. It was a great time! It was a great time all made possible by the ‘miracle’ that is Facebook.
The experience led me to reflect on just how such social technologies will forever alter the connectivity landscape. For one thing school reunions might just become redundant as a result of this type of technology. Those who want to stay connected will have a seamless platform on which to do so and maintaining contact and staying in touch will be as easy as was getting into trouble at school.
I often hear those from my generation (Boomers) express the opinion that all this connection and network adds unwanted hassles to what are already busy lives. “I have people wanting to connect with me, claiming to be my friend who I can’t even remember,” said one such Boomer to me the other day. Or, “this guy wants to connect with me from school but we hated each other back then!” is another common refrain! Of course they have a point here but it is somewhat ironic as Boomers are the very ones who invented the term ‘networking’ in the first place! A point that is seemingly lost on Boomers themselves which only adds to the irony at play. It is just that networking is now happening in a manner and at a pace previously unimaginable and staying on top of the never-ending web of networking is exhausting.
The point is that the problem is not the amount of information streaming in but rather the lack of adequate filters, or as Clay Shirkey put it: “It is not information overload – it is filter failure”. Boomers will have to work hard at putting in place appropriate filters to help cope with what they feel is the unconquerable amount of information coming at them. Part of the adaptive problem is that Boomers have this inbuilt need to understand, sort, categorize and manage all information received. That simply is what Boomer do; it is what they are good at. Doing this is important for control, strategy and well, just being in charge. The problem is that this is simply no longer possible and it is Boomers who will have to make the necessary adjustments. They will have to find new and effective filters.