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If you ever find yourself saying “oh the Internet is just full of cat pictures” or “Twitter is just full of people talking about what they had for lunch” or “Facebook is cluttered with crap” – then I have news for you. The problem lies not with the Internet. The problem is your lack of imagination and personal discipline.

I’ve said it a thousand times over the years. The Internet is a tool. Like a hammer, you can use it to build a temple to the goddess Diana or you can use it to smack someone over the head. Don’t blame the tool. Take responsibility for how you use it.

That may sound harsh, but I think it’s fair.

I think there are two underlying problems at the heart of people’s struggles to tame the the Internet.

1. Most of us don’t know how to program the Internet to work for us. That’s right – you have to PROGRAM THE INTERNET. Most of us grew up in a world of pre-programmed entertainment and news, delivered to us each day via the newspaper, television or radio. Twentieth century media taught us to just sit back and have our brains tickled. So, naturally, we treat the Internet the same way. We just expect it to stimulate us. We haven’t learned how to program it according to our interests and the outcomes we want to derive from it.

How often over the years have you heard some cynic say a version of “Oh I don’t have time for Twitter / Facebook / podcasts”. Wow, you are SO important. Look at you. Mr Important Guy. Too busy to be on the Internet. I guarantee you the person who makes a comment like that doesn’t understand that the Internet needs to be programmed. My response is usually to point out that there are currently 200 million active users on Twitter. Out of 200 million people, you can’t find someone interesting?? There are some extremely intelligent people on Twitter. Are you telling me you are SO BUSY that you can’t find a few minutes every day to find out what a dozen or so of the most intelligent people in the world are thinking about? Are you too hip to be inspired by the musings of some of the smartest, most artistic or creative people on the planet?

If you think Twitter or Facebook is cluttered with dribble these days, here’s a tip – DELETE YOUR ACCOUNT AND START AGAIN. If one of your networks is cluttered, it’s because YOU CLUTTERED IT. You failed to program it successfully. That’s okay. Don’t worry. Just start again and do it properly. Follow only ten people. Follow my “Smart 10” list if that makes it easy for you. ¬†I keep a rotating list of ten smart people in the list. They come from a variety of backgrounds. I want to know what smart people are thinking about, don’t you? I may follow 9000 people, but this is the only list I pay attention to. I glance at it a couple of times a day, when my mind needs a rest from the work I’m doing. I allow myself a mental stimulation break. These smart people give me something to think about for a few minutes that will often spark my creativity or force a few new neurone to grow. Or you can find your own smart list. Google the word “Twitter” with the subject/s you are most interesting in. Fishing. Hiking. Hipsters. History. Whatever. Spend a few minutes finding out which leaders in that field are active on Twitter. Then follow them. AND SHUT EVERYONE ELSE OUT. Either unfollow them or just put your top people in a list and only look at that list. If you use Tweetdeck or a similar tool, that’s quite easy. Just have two columns – one for your Smart list, one for replies to your tweets. That’s it. Clean, simple and inspiring. You can do the same for Facebook or Google+. Clean it out and program it correctly.

2. The other problem with how people use the net is that people still haven’t worked out that the Internet is a PUBLISHING platform, not just an ENTERTAINMENT platform. What you give to it is MUCH more important than what you take out. I believe that¬† the 80/20 rule should apply to the Internet. If you want to get the most out of the it, spend 80% of your net time PUBLISHING something interesting and only 20% of your time consuming content other people have published. Think about the net (including Twitter, Facebook, blogs, podcasts, Pinterest, Instagram, etc) as your opportunity to contribute something back to the human race. Share ideas that you have, commentary on things that you’ve read recently, ask questions that you’d like answered. Judge your OWN content contributions over the last month. Have you posted mostly guff? Or are you trying to contribute valuable, interesting, engaging content? How would you score your own content contributions out of 10? A pass mark or higher? Or do you fail?

If you spend most of your time on the net trying to publish the highest quality content you can, and still think the internet is boring, then you’ve only got yourself to blame.

This brings me to a bigger issue – most of us don’t know how to program our tech in general, not just the net. We haven’t developed the skill to have a model for assessing how new tools will work for us. But I’ll leave that for a future post.


by Cameron Reilly