“700+ and counting :-)” – read a Facebook update from a friend – He had gone past 700 friends in Facebook.
“ABC XXXXX 1500+” – read the name of a profile in LinkedIn – The 1500+ added recently to signify the number of connections he has.
Well… let’s face it – social networking has become ubiquitous. Facebook is the favorite “hangout” for many – be it in schools, colleges or after-work hours. Not having a Facebook ID can be considered anything from being “uncool” to “Living in the Stone Age”. Most, if not all of us, feel happy to see the number of friends or connections on social networking sites increase – so much so, that some of my friends see it as a sense of competition (I must have more friends than X or Y)
The proliferation of Facebook and similar sites has come as a boon for introverts. In the pre-Facebook era, the introverts usually struggled to connect with people . Social networking / Facebook changed all that –
- It provided a powerful medium allowing people time to think through and respond to updates / messages.
- It helps them get away from the dreaded “body language imbroglio” – no-ones looking at them when they are responding (unless you are on the cam of course).
- Above all, it allows them to establish first contact with people around the world – better still, sometimes you get to connect with your long lost childhood friend.
The benefits of social networking are many, and the above is certainly not an exhaustive list. However, that’s not the intent of this post…
What’s more intriguing though is that a person’s “networking ability and influence” is often being measured through the number of Facebook friends he has, or the number of LinkedIN connections he possesses.
Is that the right evaluation of a person’s network?
Before you respond, I believe its important to understand what you mean by a network. I dwelled on this in my earlier post – “Are you creating your network of help?”. According to me,
A network is a group of people that you can reach out to for mutual help. You should be able to engage with any person in your network, and vice versa.
With that context, it would be worthwhile to ask yourself the following –
- How many of the people on your social network are you really connected with?
- How many of the Facebook friends or LinkedIn contacts can you call up and make instant engaging conversation?
In my mind, while social networking sites allows you to establish initial contacts – nurturing them, engaging with them still needs to be done in the same “old fashioned” way – a phone call, an email, a greeting card on his birthday etc. Even to this day, a phone call to my professional peers in other companies or meeting up with a school / college friend when I visit my hometown makes me feel more connected than a status update on Facebook.
Again, there is absolutely nothing wrong with social networking in principle, provided we realize that it no substitute for meeting people – for getting out there to the get-together, to the community center and making friends.
I hope that as we head into the “Social Networking Era”, we still continue to get out there to meet people and do things together – sport, praying, studying, volunteering, working, eating. We need each other. The virtual just won’t suffice.
What do you think?