Is There Such a Thing as "Social Networking Fatigue"?

By Dennis D. McDonald

Is there such a thing as "social networking fatigue"?

Luis Suarez thinks so. He wrote about it recently in Your Single Social Network - ClaimID and Identity 2.0 to the Rescue?. Here's an extract of what he said:

More than anything else because if there is a single major inhibitor from people to try out new social networking tools it is actually the initial sign-up process along with building the initial network of colleagues and friends to get things going.

Here's the comment I left on Luis' blog:

Luis, I'm wondering if this idea of "too many profiles" might really be a non-issue. I say that because the determinant to social networking is not the sign-up and profile loading problem, it's the time necessary to really interact with all the networks. There are only 24 hours in a day.

One way of thinking about this is to consider the sign up and profiling process as the "fixed cost," and the time necessary to interact with the network the "variable cost." I'm much more concerned about the variable cost than I am the fixed cost. 

On second thought, I think Luis really has a point here, but we also have to take into account the nature of the social network when we consider joining. One consideration about "joining" a network is whether it is an open or closed network where only "members" can post or read communication.

For example, if I spend time interacting with the network (say, by posting comments or creating fresh content), do I care if people outside the network will be able to read that content?

I thought about this recently when I was asked to join a network created by an industry commentator for whom I have a great deal of respect. He has a widely read blog and has created a group of invitees, people whom I also respect. The question now becomes, how do I allocate my time to reading, commenting, and writing -- and also doing what I need to be doing to make a living?

So on the one hand I see the great benefits of the easy formation of specialized "online communities." They allow us to create and share thoughts, and rub shoulders with, the people we know and respect.

On the other hand, too much exclusivity complicates life. For example, if I'm not a member of a group, can I subscribe to and read its RSS feed?  Do I have to go through a special log-in process to gain access?  The more "speed bumps" there are to overcome, the more likely it is that I'll delay interacting with a network, unless the obvious  member benefits outweigh the hassle factors.

These kinds of considerations are  dollars-and-cents issues to some folks, such as professional membership associations, some of which might be facing major membership renewal shortfalls in the face of the rise of widely available online social networking opportunities.

Please comment below if you have some insight into this issue of "social networking fatigue"!


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Reader Comments (6)

I just posted about this issue on my blog:

The gist is that I agree that there's friction both at sign-up and in on-going use. And it's not just closed/open, it's how do I determine what gets shared with what groups as a content creator. Either we all end up using encoupasing solutions like MySpace for the young crowd or we need to find standards for how to exchange.
December 18, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterTony Karrer
Thanks Tony I have responded to you comment on your blog.
December 18, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterDennis McDonald
I find that the value of a blog is that the author can write about whatever they feel is valuable without having to worry about where each thought should be "stored". It relies on tagging/searching for readers to find individual posts that are valuable and then where there is significant overlap in interests, authors to whom they will return to find what they have written lately.

As soon as one "joins" multiple networks that author freedom is lost and so the author is forced to say to themselves "which of my thoughts are relevant to this group"?

There is no doubt that people will find certain communities interesting and will respond or pose questions as appropriate, but I agree that pontificating that goes on in blogs is likely to peter out over time in any community because though people may be energized upon joining, they will not naturally seek to frame their ideas in ways that are appropriate for the community and thus the contributions will wane.
December 21, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterSwan
Another article about this topic is here:

Steve O'Hear's "Could 2007 be the year of social network fatigue?" (
January 6, 2007 | Registered CommenterDennis D. McDonald
Well it's a fair few months since this blog was written and i'm not sure if the author will read this message.

I am interested in Social Networking fatigue in terms of the effect that advertising and bandwagon jumping has on communities or at least, the cyber community. The world wide web, let's face it was originally a communication interface free from any commercial interruption whatsover.

Now it seems to be a cat and mouse game between the the original colonies and the virtual estate agents that come flocking in whenever grass roots activity becomes a safe bet for revenue.

Of course one good thing about social networking is it's made many of us realise that really we're all self marketeers to some degree.

I'm just wondering at what point the second life money will run out and it will be all about credit card bills. that's good for the artists, but i'm not sure they're going to survive long in second life either, just like the real world maybe they'll get booted out when the rents increase

June 5, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew James
Andrew, as in real life, people in virtual communities "vote with their feet." Look at how people are currently jumping on the Facebook bandwagon. Tomorrow it will be something else.
June 5, 2007 | Registered CommenterDennis D. McDonald

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