Monday, December 06, 2010

Social Networking Should Not Be Like Trolling The White Pages

You can barely open a magazine, listen to a newscast or spend anytime on Twitter without the word social networking coming up.  In fact to not have heard about social networking would mean you must be living in a pogonip (yes that's a word...look it up!).

Thanks to sites like Facebook and services like Twitter, social networking has taken off with such adoption that there is literally no demographic that isn't jumping on the bandwagon. Case and point, my youngest son Josh, age 7, asked me the other day when he could get a Twitter account. My mouth fell open with surprise as you can imagine. It seems several of his friends have discussed the trappings of Facebooking and Twittering over their tater-tot lunch summits and they want in. "Heck Dad all your friends already know me because you've made me famous Tweeting about me so what's the big deal?"

To be clear I love social networking. These amazing tools open up the ability for we humans to connect on an incredible level. Never before in the history of man could one person living in Austin, Texas build a friendship with someone he's never met before in Australia with such ease. It's simply amazing.

The problem I see with social networking is that the tools make it too easy to connect. We can collect friends, followers and fans like baseball cards and that's where I see the problem. With the abundance and ease we get lazy and complacent. Okay maybe not all of us, but some of us (like me) sure do. Those shiny new baseball cards quickly loose their luster and get shoved in a drawer never to be looked at again. Sad but true and many of us treat our social networking friends much the same.

How many people that follow you on Facebook or Twitter have you taken the time to get to know?

How many of them would you want to invite over for a beer?

What do you really know about them?

What steps have you taken to get to know them beyond just accepting their follow back or friend request?

Look at the power that social networking gives you to make connections to people you might not ever have known otherwise.  It's pretty surreal and cool when you think about it.  But if you don't take the time to genuinely get to know the people by making the effort to get know them then your collection of social networking friends and connections will be no more valuable than trolling the White Pages (for you younger more technology dependent readers - that's a phone book that people like me used to use to look up people's phone numbers.  I think they quit printing them.) to connect with someone new.

Don't just accept those friend requests unless you are willing to invest the time and energy in getting to know who this supposed friend is in the first place. Ask them questions, engage them in dialogue and hell, offer to use this outdated technology call the phone to actually chat with them!  I suspect if you show you are interested in truly getting to know the person on the other end of the web connection, they will return the favor. Then and only then haven't you really created something?

Oh and Josh, a few more years buddy.  Heck by then something even cooler than Twitter will be out I am sure.

Ripple On!!!


Maria Gatling said...

Great post Steve! And I love your sense of humor!

Maura said...

Great post as usual, Steve. I think I need to disagree with one point, though...It would either be unrealistic or very limiting to think that the only people you should connect with on Twitter are people you intend to make a real effort to get to know. Twitter friendships grow organically. Some do, and some don't, and you never know which Tweet might be the catalyst for that deeper connection. I do agree that following "just anyone" is probably not the best strategy, because the potential for connections will get lost in the crowd. I'd say, connect with anyone who seems interesting to you. Something may develop, or not, but either way it's still ok.

Ripple On, my friend!