There is such a thing as too much information, especially if it’s all coming at you all at once. That’s how I felt when I started using the new Motorola CLIQ from T-Mobile — the latest smart phone to feature the Google Android operating system and the first Android phone from Motorola.
Don’t get me wrong, this is a terrific phone with some unique and worthy features. But there is one “feature” that can be a bit overwhelming. The phone is designed to keep you ultra-connected to your social networking buddies whether they be on FaceBook, Twitter or MySpace. By default all of your friends’ Tweets and Facebook updates show up on the home screen you see when you turn on the device.
For people with a lot of online “friends” that can be a torrent of information — far too much to digest on a 3.1 inch screen. Another interesting “feature” is the way it consolidates all your contact information. I’m not sure this is good or bad, but when I go to the phone’s contact list, I get the email contacts from Gmail that I definitely want along with contact information from all my Facebook, MySpace and Twitter “friends.”
That could be a good thing but — to be honest — most of my online friends aren’t actually people I would ever call or email so having a few thousand extra people in my contact list is a bit much.
To its credit, the phone does let you filter contacts but I didn’t learn that until I took the extraordinary step
of actually looking at the manual. Once I figured that out, I limited the contacts I see to only folks in my Gmail address book — still more than I can easily manage but far less than everyone who’s ever interacted with me on a social networking site.While I recognize the advantages of having your entire social life spread out before you in the palm of your hand, I also think it’s important for people to be able to prioritize incoming information. Everyone has their own definition of what’s important but — for me — it’s typically voice mail, text messages and email, in that order, followed at a distance by Twitter and Facebook.
Regardless of what devices you use, the bigger issue here is how much information you need flowing at you. In order to have time to earn a living and maintain relationships with family and real-life friends, I’ve had to limit my use of Twitter and Facebook. I do check in now and then and try to update my status whenever I have something to say that I think might interest others, but I’m finding myself less obsessed with these services than I was just a few months ago.
For me, it’s not a privacy concern but a bandwidth issue. I’m not talking the bandwidth of my cable modem or 3G phone, but the limited bandwidth of my brain which, lately, is unable to process all the data that’s coming in.
Of course, I’m probably not the target demographic for CLIQ. Teens and 20-somethings are growing up in a multi-tasking environment where information is coming in and going out an accelerated pace. And from outside appearances, I’m not sure it’s such a bad thing. When my now-25-year-old daughter was in high school she would surf the web, exchange IMs, talk on the phone, watch TV and do her homework all at the same time yet still managed to get good grades.
Still, I do worry about the complete lack of boundaries between people’s online and online lives. Today’s young people don’t “go” online, they “are” online 24/7. If I were to bring out my Blackberry while having dinner with my wife, I’d get a dirty look and, if I didn’t put it away soon, might be spending the night in the spare bedroom. But I’ve spoken with several people in their 20s who have no qualms about texting during dinner with a significant other or a group of friends.
The other night I was having dinner at a restaurant next to an entire table full of young professionals who — instead of talking with each other — were on their phones texting or snapping photos to send to whatever friends they had who weren’t having dinner with them. Kind of makes you wonder why they bothered getting together in the first place.