The Human Network
I read an article recently about the impact social networking has had on our face to face interactions. The author said that because of sites like Facebook and Twitter, many folks have actually become more introverted than the name “social” would have you believe. Instead of networking events for business, or the bar scene for dating, millions have taken to the web to connect without actually connecting. While there is some truth behind that, many folks would disagree, myself included.
For example, on Facebook, I am “Friends” with people I probably wouldn’t have seen or heard from otherwise. Acquaintances from High School or family that live out of town. It’s not as if the social network has replaced my interaction with these people, as it likely wouldn’t have existed without it. As for the few close family and friends I have on there, it’s merely an additional way to connect and share.
On the flip side, I personally know people who spend entirely too much time on Facebook and could probably use some fresh air now and again. It’s almost like their lack of real interaction has made them even more dull in real life. Having not had to engage in a real conversation in weeks, their responses equal nothing more than a bunch of “yups” and the occasional chuckle, which I manually replace in my head with “LOL”.
Here’s one final note on Facebook: If you’ve ever sent me a “Farmville” or “Mafia Wars” request on Facebook, know that I’ve probably lost a little respect for you in real life. Now “Words with Friends” is a different story – totally appropriate!
Now on to Twitter. Believe me I wasn’t a fan in the beginning either. Twitter, like any social network, is what you make of it. If you follow a bunch of businesses and celebrities on Twitter, expect just that. Pitches of products and services and maybe the occasional joke from your favorite celeb. Odds are it’s not really them anyhow. Not all, but some celebrities have publicists and agencies do their tweeting for them. They’re pretty easy to spot, though.
It’s taken me about a year to figure out a good balance of people to follow. Many are local folks, however unlike Facebook, I know very few of them in real life. Instead we share some common interests and can all identify with the same local issues and gripes.
I follow most local news organizations. If nothing else, Twitter can be a great way of getting news updates. Like any news, always remember to consider the source and understand that Twitter moves very quickly. Often times things break on Twitter before all the details on a given story are even available.
In addition, I follow many local designers and marketing people. Years ago you would never think of sharing information with “competition”. Now you can attend meetings with similar businesses and professionals, most of which are willing to help each other in any way they can, within reason.
Lastly, I like to laugh, so I follow several comedians on Twitter. They aren’t the headliners you’ve seen on HBO or anything, in fact you’ve probably never heard of any of them. They are the people behind the scenes. The writers for the top shows on television. From sitcoms to late night talk shows, these are the people making the big names look good. I won’t list off a bunch of people you should follow, you should make Twitter your own, but if you ever want some recommendations, just give me a shout!
Facebook and Twitter are no replacement for real interaction. If instead, you can supplement your social life or extend your business connections, then these can be great tools to do so. I will say that if you’re unsure how either of these sites can really help your business, try searching for some industry specific sites instead. These are smaller networks for designers, doctors, lawyers, marketing professionals, pretty much anything. Chances are, if there’s something you’re interested in, someone else has already started a site around it.
There’s a whole lot of web out there, people. Be careful, and as in real life, don’t be afraid to stop and ask for directions.