PLNs – is there ever too much of a good thing?

In 2008, Jeff Utecht wrote a blog post outlining what he believed to be the stages of Personal Learning Network (PLN) adoption. He observed that when people go about starting a PLN they often move through five stages that include immersion, evaluation, know it all, perspective and balance. In this model, stage 3, know it all, can be a dangerous time. At this stage, Utecht says people find themselves spending many hours trying to learn everything they can, they feel like they can’t afford to miss anything posted in networks and even give up sleep to stay connected. The image below was developed by Utecht to illustrate these stages:

Stages of a PLN

Personally, I think these stages do describe my own journey in establishing a PLN and I oscillate between stage 3, 4 and 5. I particularly identify with a comment on the blog made by Nancy that says “I might consider drawing a ’roundabout’ as well since I find myself entering Stage 3, then 4, then 5 and then something happens and I’m back at Stage 3 then going on to 4, etc.” I always maintain a goal of balance but manage to lose this mid-term when I enjoy being connected to interesting people and great ideas to the point of spending too much time on devices. When university studies or the school term comes to an end, I have a break, get some perspective and seek balance again. If balance is a habit that can be achieved through practise and discipline, then my efforts to obtain this will eventually pay off and indeed, I think slowly, I am experiencing more of the balanced periods and less the manic ones.

In the classroom, I’m constantly telling students that healthy digital citizenship includes digital down time as advocated by others such as Ribble (2011), Rheingold (2012) and Boyd (2014). I think it is important to ‘practice what I preach’ and apply this principle to time spent in my PLN. I also agree with the comment left by John Larkin in response to Utecht’s post, that states too much intensity in a PLN can lead to burn out and that can be debilitating, personally and professionally (2008). In his book, Netsmart: How to thrive online, Howard Rheingold argues that learning how and when to concentrate on the relevant portions of the incoming tsunami of information is a skill that can and should be learned. He labels this process – infotention (2012).

As part of my studies for Social Networking for Information Professionals at CSU, we were asked to develop a meme map of our own PLN which involves social networking sites, people and organizations. Here is mine:

My PLN is 2015-01-29 at 10.41.04 pm

For this subject, we were also challenged to identify any ‘gaps’ in our existing PLN (ie. areas which we feel we would like to develop further/in the future). Linkedin is one such gap in my PLN. While I have an account and a profile, I have always felt uncomfortable in this environment and avoid updating or participating here. I don’t have a solid explanation for these feelings but something about the platform makes me feel like a “boaster” on one hand and a “stalker” on the other. For the purposes of both the subject and my digital footprint, I have set the goal of becoming more familiar with what is on offer for professionals in Linkedin and improving my participation in this network.


Boyd, D. (2014). It’s complicated: The social lives of networked teens. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Rheingold, H. (2012). Net smart: How to thrive online. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Ribble, M. (2011). Digital citizenship in schools. Eugene, Or.: International Society for Technology in Education.

Utecht, J. (2008, April 03). Stages of PLN adoption [Web log post]. Retrieved January 31, 2015, from


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