Alarmist description of the relationship people have with their online world aside, this article has some interesting points about what it means to communicate primarily via email and social network. Google's latest Gmail tweak that makes it suddenly much easier for anybody to email you slides right into this discussion.
"...email has become the circulatory system along which internal outsourcing flows. Sending an email is easy and cheap, and emails create obligation on the part of a recipient without any prior agreement."
I remember this as one of the first things I took from Merlin Mann's writing back in the 43 Folders days. The idea that an email costs almost nothing to send. There is no scarcity like there used to be with a long distance phone call or writing a letter. Any wahoo can write you an email. Does this mean that anybody in the world, regardless of what you're working on, should be able to interrupt you? If you keep your email notifications on and audible then that's what you're saying. That nothing you're working on -- nothing that you're spending your most precious resources on, time and attention -- is worth as much as whatever somebody wants to email you. And that is insane.
"Increasingly, online life in general feels like this. The endless, constant flow of email, notifications, direct messages, favorites, invitations. After that daybreak email triage, so many other icons on your phone boast badges silently enumerating their demands. Facebook notifications. Twitter @-messages, direct messages. Tumblr followers, Instagram favorites, Vine comments. Elsewhere too: comments on your blog, on your YouTube channel. The Facebook page you manage for your neighborhood association or your animal rescue charity. New messages in the forums you frequent. Your Kickstarter campaign updates. Your Etsy shop. Your Ebay watch list. And then, of course, more email. Always more email."
Thinking about this stuff matters because the difference between being buried beneath the deluge and making your way confidently through the information morass is a delicate one. With half an hour of work and some careful consideration of what information you actually need real-time notification of, you can cut down your distractions by at least 50%. Change the default notification settings on your social networks so you *don't* get email every time somebody interacts with you. Setup some filters in your email that diverts obvious mailing lists and other bulk email around your inbox. The simple change from you allowing your services to notify you and you deciding to consciously check a service for updates is small, yet huge, at the same time.
Nobody is going to protect your time for you. You're the one who has to take charge.