Saturday, 19 March 2011

Have PLNs been over-hyped? A reaction to Gavin Dudeney's blog

I was interested to read Gavin Dudeney's posting to his That'SLife blog, 18 March 2011. It’s headed On PLNs. In his posting Gavin asks whether Personal Learning Networks (PLNs) have been over-hyped. The essence  is summed up in his opening paragraph:

"I think all this ‘PLN’ business is seriously over-hyped and overrated and most people are kidding themselves about just how much they get out of theirs, just how many of their PLN would be friends and mentors ‘in real life’, and just, well, just how real it all is."

I posted a response, agreeing on the whole with what Gavin had said, especially this extract from his posting:

“Here’s what I know (and I must stress this is a personal post – your mileage may vary)… My best friends are all, with one or two exceptions, people I have first met face-to-face and then continued to contact online due to distance or whatever. I also know that, like most people, I have an optimum number of friends, and that number is very small. I see these people when I can, and I get more out of two hours in their company than I could ever in a few weeks with them online in Twitter.”

So true! I get more out of chatting to half a dozen friends at my local pub on a Saturday night than I do out of a whole week of browsing the Web. Twitter is OK for picking up links and for occasional bits of information, but on the whole I find it confusing. Turn your head for a couple of hours and the interesting threads you were following have got lost in a mass of idle chit-chat. I deliberately avoid accepting lots of new friends on Twitter or Facebook. I can’t handle large numbers of friends or followers, and I don’t want to anyway. Facebook is my fun area. It embraces my family and real friends, and a few people I have met at conferences. Don’t expect too much serious stuff from me on Facebook. Most of my postings have nothing to do with my professional life.

It is becoming increasingly apparent that life online is becoming stressful. I often read about people worrying about keeping up with new developments. They are never away from their laptops, iPhones or iPads. I recently read a posting from a young woman who was horrified to find that she had been charged $30 a day for using her iPhone while spending a holiday at her parents’ home (which is in a different country from the one in which she works). Her parents’ home did not have wifi, so she chose to pay the roaming charges in case she missed something important. There’s another solution: switch off your phone while you are on holiday.

Some years ago, when I was still in full employment, I came back from a short holiday to find 500 messages sitting in my email in-folder. In a fit of pique I just trashed the lot without reading a single message. On reflection, I felt a bit guilty and also apprehensive about this, wondering if I might have missed something important. But my act of vandalism appeared to make no difference to my life. People who really needed a reply to the messages that they had sent me contacted me again. A friend of mine did the same thing recently, dumping all the messages that arrived by email into a trash folder while she was on a skiing holiday. I think her experience was much the same as mine.