Something I’ve been thinking about lately is the affect that our network of relationships might be having on our thinking and our point of view. Thanks to the internet and social web, information is being created and shared at a pace today that makes the head spin. The amount of content available for consumption on the web is growing at an exponentially faster pace each week. And, I know that I, for one, can’t keep up.
For example, there are a few dozen blogs that I’d like to read every day, but I just can’t make that happen. Then there’s magazines and journals like Fast Company and Harvard Business Review that I’d like to read from cover to cover each month. Add to that some daily news sources, new research papers, etc. Nevermind actually trying to read an entire book. I can’t do it. I’ve lost that battle a long time ago.
So, instead of trying to keep up with everything, I’ve come to rely on my network, predominantly through social media, to bring great content to my attention. I’m not sure that this is the best or most reliable method of determining what to read, but it’s my way. Most every thing I read these days comes to me through a recommendation of some sort–retweets, shares, recommendations, etc. I’m trusting my network to help me find good content to consume. Sure, I still have some blogs that I religiously follow, but much of the rest comes to me through the network.
As I was thinking about this, I realized how much influence I’ve given to my network. They are literally telling me what to read. And what I read affects what I think about and, often, how I think about it. That’s a lot of trust that I’m putting in my network. I’m conscious of the fact that this is happening in the same way that I’m conscious of google tweaking my search results based on my past searching or amazon making recommendations to me. I know that I am opting into information that comes with a slant. But, I wonder how many people aren’t aware of the power they are handing over to their network. And, I wonder at what cost some people are unknowingly allowing others to influence what information they are consuming.
I think that this is yet another reason to be very intentional in our networking efforts. We need to be thoughtful about who we give such great powers of influence in our lives. I’m not suggesting that if we allow someone into our network, that they suddenly possess some kind of mind control over us. Rather, I think that if we only let in certain types of people to our network(typically people like us who value the same things we do) and we aren’t conscious about putting diversity into our network, that we can end up creating a pretty one dimensional network which could make our thinking and perspective one dimensional. The social capital available in your network increases in value as the diversity of your network increases because it then gives us more diverse sources of information and perspective to access.
Perhaps I’m over thinking this, but I feel it’s important to pay attention to what information you are feeding your brain and where that information is coming from. In today’s hyper-connected world, one of the ways you do this is by paying close attention to who is in your network and why they are there.