Being King of Your Own Universe: No More Learner’s Regret

Buyer’s regret is no myth of yore; you probably remember or have heard of people going to the carnival with a couple dollars in pocket, and spending too much on blue cotton candy before finding out that there are pink ones too. More likely, however, you’ve spent hours of your life, attention you could have focused somewhere more worthy, or energy you could have saved for fun on reading and parsing some useless post online, then realized after you’re dead tired at 5 a.m.  To me, learner’s regret hurts much more than donating cash to a businessperson.

Recognizing the problem of learner’s regret and our acknowledging that we’ve squandered time is the first step to fixing it. Nobody accidentally throws away perfectly good pizza twice. If we read every single tweet by all our friends at a sports game, we might as well have gone; and if we don’t care for the sport, then that was a complete waste of time and effort. Isolating the sources of this clutter is crucial in finding the information that matter to us.
Too much idea clutter. Photo by Spykster / CC BY

What then, matters? Gruzd, Wellman and Takhteyev’s Twitter study have defined the fundamentals of Twitter’s online community: membership, influence, integration and fulfillment of needs, and shared emotional connection. As members of a massive network, Twitter users are connected in sub-networks that share their own needs, desires, and emotional support. All that depends on context of the group. The question is, how does one exert influence?

Wellman’s study has concluded that Twitter’s massive network pivots on “high centers” that are significantly more popular (followed) than others within a given sized group. So, while 1% of Twitters are elite “high centers,” everyday users often hold significant influence within his/her Twitter community.  Even within these communities, however, exist clutter. Just as “Wellman, for example, blocks spammers and pornsters,” it is critical to avoid the spam and intellectual pornography that mar our feeds. It takes effort to filter out or recognize bias, trivial pursuits, and other clutter. By biasing our feeds, we bias our followers’, and thus wield greater influence as leaders and “high centers.”

So how does one declutter? There must be a simpler way than skimming everything! Twitter’s recent mute feature provides an interesting alternative to disconnecting with or avoiding someone. Unfollowing or blocking other users seem harsh and closed-minded in a Twitter culture that values attentiveness to others. Wellman’s study has shown that openness provides more outlets for ideas to flow to.

The mute function reflects the very process critical to decluttering: recognizing and locating the source (user) of clutter, muting them (filtering), then possibly tuning back in for relevant information. By controlling information flow coming in, users are better able to focus their own ideas and posts while maintaining social diversity, thus giving their Twitter contributions more potential to influence.


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