Social networking and the ego trap

My first business card 
Originally uploaded by Pete Kim.

I received my first "real" business card during an Arthur Andersen internship.  I didn’t have many people to exchange them with, but I did have hundreds of embossed heavy-weight scraps of paper that made me feel important.

Last week, I was sorting through handfuls of business cards collected over the past five years or so.  Most of them could be discarded for one of two reasons – either the contact was irrelevant (e.g. Swedish online payment processing) or I have better information via other means.  LinkedIn and  Facebook are today’s new business cards, delivering profiles with rich content and dynamic means of maintaining connections.

However, I’ve fallen into the social media "ego trap" not once, but twice.  Two summers ago I had to prune my LinkedIn network to regain usefulness, removing 700 connections. I made the mistake again and recently had to prune Twitter of 800+ "friends" as well.  Maybe that’s even the third time – the first being my stack of old paper cards.

I should’ve known better.  Social networks are valuable for building and maintaining relationships.  Updates and status feeds preserve the signal strength of current ties and boost the signal of weak ones.  But adding connections with low relevance and connection result in static, increasing in annoyance as one’s network grows.  Useful social networks require a high signal-to-noise ratio.

I have an idea on why I fell into the trap, which I’ll explain in another post.  But for now…

Is it just me, or have you ever found yourself caught in the social media ego trap too?