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Is Social Media Overly Social?

Yesterday I reviewed the latest updates of my LinkedIn connections, after a busy period of not checking in.

I noticed that many people had written a brief update over the past two weeks. Some had written daily updates. Others had published several updates each day.

Whose do you think I read?

I read the first update each person published, so for the people who included just one update, I read their comments closely. I was delighted to learn that a client was working on retail training and had traveled to Texas to do so. I liked feeling in the know about his work.

For those who published more than one update, I read the first couple of them if I could understand them. However, if they had written a few cryptic words and added a link, I did not bother. I didn't have time to chase down information that might or might not be of interest. If their second or third updates were compelling, I read them. But I confess wondering whether their work had slowed down so they had nothing else to do, or whether they were avoiding the next big project by typing online.  

For those who published over and over–sometimes several times in an hour–I quickly ignored their updates. I considered deleting constant updaters from my connections if they were people I don't know well.  

Am I antisocial? Or as a baby boomer, do I just not understand the need to connect constantly?

LinkedIn is a professional network, so these are business connections. I am certain that none of them would call me or email me several times a day to update me on their business lives. So why do they update their network connections that often with talk about meaningful quotations, great articles, the latest news in politics, the next workshop, and the weather where they live?

Call me a curmudgeon, but for me less is more. If you write to me once a month or even once a week and share a meaningful bit of inspiration or information, I am eager for it. But if you update me several times a day with that same information, it becomes meaningless, just another drip drip drip in a constant rain of information.

My situation may be atypical because I had not checked LinkedIn for a couple of weeks. Had I visited every day, the updates would have come in a manageable stream rather than a flood. Still, does a steady stream of information communicate as much as a reflecting pool?

Perhaps my water theme just fell apart with that last metaphor. Like much that comes along in social media, maybe it was too much of a good thing. 

Are your professional social media outlets happily social? Or do they come across as frantic, too much of a good thing? Please share your honest views. 

Syntax Training

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By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English.

11 comments on “Is Social Media Overly Social?”

  • Lynn it sounds like these people are using LinkedIn like Twitter–which is designed for the quick, sometimes playful check-in–tho even there, I agree with you, I wouldn’t want to see more than one entry a day. People seem to get swept away by the possibility of connecting with other people, no matter how.


  • I think the number of updates is less important than the quality. Are you posting information that is useful to your networks? That’s my criteria, although I agree that we are all on information overload.

  • I’m with you, Lynn.

    In this age of information overload our time is very scarce and other people should be mindful of that.
    Therefore, every update should be meaningful and relevant to your users.

    Another way to look at it is that you can learn a lot about people just by looking at their updates, which may be of help when deciding whether to do business with them.

  • I think social media is different for different people, and different businesses. For a citizen journalist or a newspaper correspondent, it might be a good idea to update from an event site itself, a short tweet perhaps that describes what he or she is seeing, which provides a first hand perspective to the happening. a back-packer on the other hand would be updating his or her blog only when he or she has had some time off to write, edit the photographs and access to an internet connection. while a business, should approach linkedin in a more planned manner. if you are a large conglomerate, you would like to diversify your social media presence across different domains and update different stakeholders at a steady pace. if you’re running a small business managing 10-15 people, it might be a good idea to tweet about a coffee spill in office, but a bad idea if you got a hundred of them from the CEO who manages 25,000 employees. And then it is the readers. What you went through is precisely about how much connect the readers have with your content. If the audience is mature, and belongs to such demographics where they check emails once a week, you’d better focus on well-thought updates for them. While college students might prefer to be reading what’s on your mind, and would want to update them accordingly.

  • Hi, Jane. Thanks for stopping by. You suggested a guideline–no more than one tweet per day in normal circumstances (not for the citizen journalists Arjunsinghal mentioned). Do you have other guidelines about the content of the communication? I am asking because I know you advise hospitals on their use of social media.


  • Hi, Jeannette. Your idea about usefulness made me think more about that aspect. I realized that if I know the contact well, I enjoy reading his or her updates even if they are not useful. For example, if someone announces that she is having a great day and tells why, I am glad to know about her joy.

    So my usefulness requirements seem to be related to my closeness to the contact. If I don’t know someone well, I expect more from their updates.

    Thanks for your view.


  • Hi, Yoav. I liked your bringing in the business angle. If someone is using social media for business purposes, their updates do inform our decisions about whether to work with them. Thanks for that reminder.


  • Hi, Arjunsinghal. I appreciate your writing about the topic in such detail. Your comparison of the citizen journalist, backpacker, and business is instructive.

    If you read this comment, would you please elaborate on your example of tweeting about the coffee spill in the office? Would that be an example of communicating about the kind of day one is having? If so, is it a good idea?


  • When a site becomes popular, it is difficult to control the usage and there are no controls imposed over the usage of social media. I think it is okay to not to bother about those statuses that haven’t interested you.

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