Today’s post is the featured article from the January 2011 issue of The Front Porch Newsletter. If you would like to automatically receive The Front Porch e-newsletter on the last Thursday of each month just click here to sign-up for your complimentary subscription.

john-newSometimes truth speaks when you don’t expect it … in a place you wouldn’t plan to find it. Last week, I was on Facebook. I tried to “friend” someone (we will call him Jack Smith) … to which Facebook replied:

Jack Smith has too many friends.

I understand the mechanics and that Facebook limits you to 5,000 friends. Mechanically, Jack needs a Facebook “Fan Page” with unlimited “likes” to stay connected. But that wasn’t what I was thinking. I was thinking Facebook’s automated message probably speaks more truth than they had intended.

Jack Smith probably does have too many “friends.”

We live in a world that reaches far and wide. And I have no problem with that … unless it replaces our ability to reach narrow and deep. Maybe Facebook simply picked the wrong term in using “friends.” It risks diluting the concept of friendship. Maybe “connection” would have been a better term. LinkedIn was probably more appropriate in labeling your connections as “contacts.”

Don’t get me wrong. I think Facebook is packed with potential. It has provided the ability to renew meaningful friendships that have faded through the passing of time and the distance of miles. But it also demands of us.

It would be fine if there were only Facebook.

The evolution of all types of technology creates an ever-expanding and demanding reach of our awareness and attention. Picture your “ability-to-focus” as a small glass filled with dark-blue food coloring. Picture Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, You Tube, email, and websites as an Olympic-size swimming pool filled to the brim. Poor your “focus” into the pool and you know what happens. At first it is visible exactly where you poured it. Slowly, but surely, the contents of the pool begin to break it down and dilute it. With the movement of the water, our dark-blue “focus” begins to drift and dilute losing its potency.

Our ability to focus, in the midst of ever-increasing stimuli, will likely become one of our most critical attributes. We have evolved from local communities to a global village … from print to airwaves to the internet. The trajectory has continued to be faster, more immediate and wide-spread. And we have just gotten started compared to where we are headed. There may be little more important, today, than increasing our ability to stay focused. Some would say “focus” is a developed skill. I would say not.

Focus is a result … of something much deeper.

It is our values that become the core of our ability to focus. Nothing more. Nothing less. Our decision to get more focused is comparable to most New Year’s resolutions. It works for a while and then like dark-blue food coloring … it slowly fades away. Values don’t organize our “to-do” list … more importantly, they determine our priorities. Our priorities in-turn fuel our focus. They determine who and what is most important. Johann Von Goeth simply put it this way, “Things which matter most, should never be at the mercy of things that matter least.” This, of course, begs the values-driven question: What really matters?

The trajectory of the on-going development of technology has already created an existence beyond our ability to keep-up. That is not a problem if we commit to the hard work of truly understanding our values. It is true in organizations and in the organization of our individual lives.

The efficiency of business and the quality of our lives will increasingly depend upon it. It may be our only hope that, in the end, technology will have served us rather than vice versa.