barcampseattlelogoBarCamp Seattle was this last weekend here in town.  It was nothing short of pure undistilled AWESOME.

One of the first sessions I attended was moderated by Monica Guzman called T.M.I.  This wasn’t actually about TMI in the standard sense, but rather a conversation on how to manage the deluge of information and content coming at us everyday during our online adventures.  There was a lot of talk and conversation around the problems people encounter during their time online around time management.

Many people openly admitted that they have sacrificed sleep for time online.  Others admitted to having to travel to the far reaches of the earth to unplug because the temptation is too great.  The majority of the discussion however, centered around how to ensure that goals are being met, and tasks completed, as we all battle the constant deluge of information coming at us.  Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Digg, IM, email, etc…The list goes on and on when it comes to potential distractions online.

Monica pointed out that the web stream is a stimuli.  It’s new and its fun.  It’s easy.  This same ease leads to a lack of control.  This lack of control is only fueled on by a feeling of guilt.  We feel guilty for not responding to comments in time, or being unavailable on IM, or a whole host of other things.  She even admitted to having to learn how to do many things with one hand because her iPhone is always attached to her.  I know some people will think that sounds a bit ridiculous.  But really…think about that.  How many of your typical behaviors have you had to alter/change because of your online habits.  Just the other day I was explaining to someone that I have a permanent ache in my last two fingers on my right hand because of how I hold my iPhone.  It’s turned into something I have to manage on my keyboard.  It’s ridiculous and I know it.  But do I do anything about it? Not yet.  Well not about that particular issue.

Jessica Randazza jumped into the conversation with a point of view I could closely relate too.  She basically said that she knows she’s online too much, she knows she’s too connected, and she’s okay with it.  I tend to fall in to this camp.  I know that I’m online all of the time.  I know that there are about 65,000 ways to get my attention online.  I’m okay with it.  Sure there are times when it gets to be too much and I start to feel overwhelmed.  But without a doubt there is always a moment that comes around right about that same time that reminds me why it’s worth it.  I’ve met some of the most amazing people through my online activities.  Yes. It’s true.  Some of my best friends and most respected peers I have met through online venues.  I’m looking at you Twitter.

Other people don’t necessarily feel the same way.  Someone (sorry, I didn’t catch your name) during the same session made the point that the guilt needs to end.  We feel a responsibility to entertain and/or inform those that we’re connected with and that guilt is what is hurting us.  “Its not our responsibility to entertain those around us.”  While, out of context this comment might not make a lot of sense and may even sound a bit self-righteous, it made sense at the moment.  Some feel a great deal of pressure to fulfill the needs of their friends or followers.  My response to you:  Stop.  Live your online life in the way that makes the most sense for you.  Don’t succumb to the guilt.  Well that’s all well and good in theory.  Be sure to do a gut check as well.  Your online goals are getting met.  What about your offline goals? You’re getting everything stumbled, every post written, every comment responded to, but have you met your offline goals.  Are you not taking care of yourself? Getting enough sleep? Making time for friends/family/pets/etc? Make lists to be sure ALL of your goals are being met, not just the online ones.

My take is that I’ve invested a lot into the relationships I’ve built online.  And I know that is reciprocated.  While I do feel a sense of responsibility to respond, it’s not out of guilt.  It’s out of a desire.  Just like getting a text from a friend IRL, I WANT to respond; I don’t feel like I HAVE to.  You do have to manage your offline world as well of course.  Time management and goal setting have been invaluable skills I’ve HAD to develop in order to be sure my life is balanced. (Truth be told, this ‘balance’ I speak of doesn’t always find itself, but I try.  I try hard dammit!)

The internet, specifically the social sphere, is a white hot black hole (more on that point in some other post).  By that, I mean, that it is a space where everyone ‘is’ all of the time.  For many, having a presence in social media and online communities directly correlates to success (for a variety of reasons).  Manage it accordingly.  Make sure you have scheduled ‘off-line’ times.  Give yourself a few hours a day to go for a run, watch a movie, grab a drink uninterrupted with a friend.  Something.  Take the chance to refresh, renew, and recharge.  It’s a White Hot  place to be, because that’s where the action is.  That’s where the links are coming from.  That’s where the relationships are being made.  It’s a black hole because it’s easy to get sucked in.  It’s easy to get lost. It’s easy to get derailed.

“I can get more work done while watching tv, than when I’m online.” – Quote from audience member from BarCamp Seattle.

I’d like to end this post with a thank you to the instigators and organizers of this great event:

Andrew Woods
Carrie Lanza
Colin Henry
Dylan Wilbanks
Cassie Wallender
Jacob Sayles
Jeremiah Andrick
Susan Evans
Bruce Henry

It really was a great event and I most definitely plan on attending again.  If you ever have the chance to go you should take the time.  Where else can you get sessions like ‘Lightning Rants’, ‘Powerpoint Karaoke’ and ‘The Sociology of Software Adoption’ all in one place?