Merlin Mann wrote a great post called "Social Networks: The Case for a Social Network Pause Button", where he suggests we need a few more states of engagement with social network applications as a way to manage the deluge of data.
I've got a better solution. Walk away. Do something else. Here's my social network pause button, and it's extremely effective:
It pauses everything. No inbox. No RSS. No IM. No friend requests. No followers. No super-pokes. No zombie bites. No updates. No is... Nothing but me, my bike, and the wind.
Don't we all have Pause Buttons already? We just need to use them. We're all in control of our engagement with these tools, we just need to realize that, and exercise our own control to our own levels of comfort.