Last week I was asked by Sky News to provide comment on the issue of “Techno addiction”, as a result of a report by Northampton University, where a study of 1,200 people carried out by Professor Nada Kakabadse highlighted the effects of social networks on young people and claims “up to a third are addicted” to technology and social networks.

According to the Northampton University report, the study also revealed that almost 50% of the respondents use work computers for personal reasons. An overwhelming 70% of technically savvy people admit to spending up to 24% of their time browsing the internet for personal reasons, although in interview, many stated there were also some work related reasons for doing so.

”Shockingly,” states Dr. Nada Kakabadse, Professor in Management and Business Research at Northampton Business School, ”over 70% of the respondents in one segment indicated that they spend up to 50% of their working day accessing social network sites such as Facebook and MySpace to satisfy their social/personal needs.”

Susan Bailey of Northampton Business School said “‘we were somewhat surprised by the results!”

My counter response as can be seen towards the end of the video piece is that we need to learn how to filter this information, and there are some simple tricks to help avoid being overwhelmed by information from social and business networks.

One of the simplest tricks was shared on twitter by Amelia Torode (@amelia_torode) who explained in a tweet and also on her blog how turning off the “you’ve got mail” flashing light on her blackberry has “changed her life”.

I’ve been using email since 1981 – when it was called a Bulletin Board Service (BBS), and have been on the internet since 1994 so I am well aware of how information can overload you if you let it.

One of my simple tips for reducing email overload is to set up rules in Outlook (menu: tools>rules and alerts) to deliver email from people or groups of people to specified folders.

As you can see on the left, my email rules tell me which folders have new mail (in bold) and they also automatically file things for me.  I try and never have more than 20 items in my inbox – the rest are in folders, actioned or deleted.

I also use the amazing Xobni (inbox backwards) client to help me find email I have filed.

I used to read multiple RSS feeds from blogs I was interested.  Now I find myself “dipping in” to twitter when on the mobile, and using the Nokia twitter client Gravity to “clip” articles of interest shared by my followers to my Instapaper account – for later reading when I have a moment.

One recent tool I’ve started using is Contact Out to help me find email addresses and contact details of people I’m looking to do business with. It’s especially useful when paired with LinkedIn to find prospects and leads. They have a free trial also if you want to find email addresses.

What do you think?  Are you letting social networks run your life or are they helping you be more connected and productive?  Leave a comment below or send me a message on twitter @andrewgrill