As we are increasingly inundated with information from websites like Twitter and Facebook, it’s become more and more difficult to filter out what’s important. In his new book, “Net Smart: How to Thrive Online,” Howard Rheingold guides the way with tips on how to use social networks and “crap detection” to figure out what’s relevant.
On How to Cut Through the Online Noise and Be Productive
"First of all I think [there's] this matter of meta-cognition, of knowing where you're putting your attention. You need to make decisions. 'Am I going to click on that link? Am I going to maybe open a tab for it on my browser and look at it later? Am I going to bookmark it to look at it much later or am I going to ignore it?' You need to make those decisions consciously and I think most of us make them unconsciously. As I said, we wouldn't have so many cute cat videos if people didn't click on impulse.
You have to make [decisions] in the context of what you intend to get done for the day. Write down, with good old right-brain pencil and paper, three things you want to get done [online] today, and just two or three words each, and put that in the periphery of your vision… and put it near your screen. And when your sight, when your gaze falls upon it, simply ask yourself 'Is what I'm doing now going to get me to where I need to be by the end of the day?' I'm not asking you to admonish yourself or to make any changes to your routine, I'm only asking you to add a little layer of awareness."
On What Kids and Parents Need to Know Before Using the Internet
"Kids need to be told before they get online that nowadays everything that you put online is going to be there forever, it's going to be searchable, it can be connected to your name, it can be reproduced, and it can be spread around the world. Kids have always done dumb things and they've always kind of said snarky things about each other and they've always had their best friends. They've never had them reproduced forever, search-ibly and reproduce-ibly and able to be broadcast everywhere. You need to know some of these things before you dip your toe in."
On Why Sharing What You Ate for Breakfast Matters
"When you meet a stranger, you talk about the weather, you talk about sports, you kind of take the temperature of that person, and I think sharing what you have for lunch everyday is kind of boring and maybe narcissistic. But saying 'I'm sitting under my plum try, I'm very happy to be able to do so,' gives people a sense of you as a human being — maybe they will trust you enough to give you a little bit of their time and information.
Small talk lubricates trust. Certainly, it's trivia and it's not going to do you much good to spend all day with trivia, but I think throwing in a little bit of the human element is not a bad idea."
"The person who thinks of herself as a contributor to digital culture, in however a small way, a participant rather than a passive consumer, is a different kind of citizen. They think of themselves as having more agency in the world."
On Audio and Video Reducing Online Bullying
"Now that I can bring my students into a space where we can see each other via video and listen to each other… we all agree, that it's a very different experience from the ones that we've done for years online, where we have exchanged words and maybe we've posted pictures and links.
There's something about face to face that can't be duplicated online. But a great deal of that signaling can be duplicated with audio and video. So I think we're getting a richer form of communication than we used to have. Here's a research question for some sociologist: Are people going to flame each other when we have universal audio and video or is that an artifact of the text-only world?"
Howard Rheingold, author of "Net Smart: How to Thrive Online" and of previous books including "The Virtual Community" and "Smart Mobs"