What is Your Personal Signal to Noise Ratio?

In signal processing speak, you want your noise floor low, and your signal high and strong. And yes, before we go on, I am a bit of a techno-geek. OK, more than a bit.

But see? Those last two sentences were noise. Not on topic. If I kept going on that tangent too long, you would likely close this page and move on to the next bright and shiny web thing. Why? Because I would have drowned the main and most critical point of this blog post with the noise of my cutesy cleverness.

Which leads me to a question: what is your signal to noise ratio? Think of your life. What are the things that really matter, those things that if undone or neglected will throw your life into disrepair? Now… how much oomph do you put behind them as compared to the trivial things that end up sucking up your time and draining your energy?

What is your personal Signal to Noise Ratio? by Eduardo Suastegui

Some of those trivial things are inescapable: do the dishes (trivial) vs. draw a plan to save for your child’s college education (critical/important). I’m sure you can come up with other bits of noise in your life that, though you’d like to quiet, you haven’t got much choice but to shoulder.

But what about the other stuff? Spending time in social media, I come face to face with this. First, you have a choice of who you follow. How much noise (stuff that doesn’t make a bit of difference to you) do you have to sift through before you latch onto an important morsel of information, such as a thought-provoking article, or a super helpful tip that improves your life? Many of us bemoan all the we must plow through on social media. Of course, there’s always the unfollow button, but what if you like what a person shares occasionally, in spite of all the cat pictures or irrelevant memes they post the rest of the time?

Now here’s the kicker. Flip this around and ask what are you offering to others when you post on your blog or in social media? What difference does it make to them? How relevant is it to their lives, to their struggles, to their interests? What is the relevance and significance of what you share? What is your own signal to noise ratio?

As an author trying to connect with prospective readers, I grapple with this all the time. Occasionally I have been known to post a running report (yes, I exercise—don’t be so skeptical), and my favorite, I love sharing photos of my mango and avocado projects (my own kind of kitty pictures). No question about it. To a prospective reader, that material amounts to little but noise. They might get interested in me as a person, but how relevant or significant are mangos and avocados to my work?

On the other hand, prospective readers might get interested in my work if I share some of it, or if I share some of the ideas and concepts that lead me to write a story. But if I’m talking about mangoes? “Noise!”, they shout, and they move on.

That leads us to a key consideration. Your signal (your message, your ideas, what you have to offer) must also rise above the noise floor that everyone else is producing! Why would you drown your signal with noise of your own when so many people out there are already doing a fine job of snuffing you out?

At this point I should offer actionable advice you can use to improve your own signal so that it stands above the rest. First, when I have that fully figured out, I’ll post the earth-shattering wisdom on my blog. Keep checking in! Second, I’d hate to offer what works for me (marginally, at this point) as Gospel truth for you. You will have to find your own message (start there!) to identify what bits of you and your worldview you want to share in order to get that message out there.

For now, I’ll share what I’m doing. Daily, I share news stories that pique my interest, usually of a scientific and technical nature. Sometimes, as rarely as I can keep it, I delve into politics. These bits often become fodder for my stories. Sometimes I post a quote that’s caught my attention or a thought of my own that I deem worth sharing.

By sharing what interests me and by offering my occasional views and “what if” observations, I hope to connect with folks of similar interests. Maybe they’ll go and check out the rest of my site and become interested in a book or two.

This blog post is an example. In a couple of my books, Pink Ballerina and Ghost Writer, I explore the concept that news and world events can be amplified (making the signal stronger) or drowned in noise to alter our perception of reality. A certain artificial intelligence goes about using—what else!?—social media to alter the signal to noise ratio of various happenings, thus influencing (transforming, even) public opinion and the political outcomes it drives.

Sound like something that might interest you? If so, this essay boosted my signal in the right direction.

What about you? How do you deal with the signal to noise ratio in social media, or in your life in general? What things can you do to boost your own signal?

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