Is Social Media Really Anti-Social?

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I was having a conversation with my friend, Gary Hart , no not that one—the @salesdujour one, about social media.  Both of us are kind of old war horses, but have eagerly embraced social media.  We reflected on networking as we knew it in the “good old days,” and social media today.  Both of us were thinking that social media can actually be very anti-social.

In the good old days of social networking, we had to rely on traditional means of networking—going to trade shows, conferences, picking up the phone and talking to people, and, God forbid, actually going to meet with someone.  There was a close connection with the people we were connecting to—actually meeting with them face to face, or talking to them hearing their voices.

Today, we use social media.  The tools provide great ways for us to connect.  I leverage everyone that I can.  It extends my reach, it enables me to connect with people I would have never been able to reach without these tools—in fact, Gary and I first met exchanging Tweets.

Yet, somehow I think social media really makes us anti-social.  We start hiding behind the tools, we start isolating ourselves from human interaction.  I went to the dictionary to see if I was off, here are a few of the definitions of Social:

  •  of or relating to human society, the interaction of the individual and the group, or the welfare of human beings as members of society <social institutions>
  • tending to form cooperative and interdependent relationships with others of one’s kind

These definitions really resonate with me.  Social is really about human connections.  Technology enables those connections to be started, but it’s really not the fulfillment of human connections.  Sometimes, I think social media does exactly the opposite—it starts to isolate us from human connection.  It becomes too easy to hide behind our tweets, blog posts, text messages, emails.  We think we are forming relationships and connecting, but really what we are doing is exchanging bit streams.  Sometimes in hiding behind these transactions we exhibit terrible behaviors.

While I’ve been active in social media for a couple of years, I must not have read the rule book.  Early on in my social media experience, I had a number of exchanges with someone, all very pleasant, we seemed to enjoy each other.  One day, I picked up the phone to call that person.  Upon introducing myself, in a shocked voice he said, “But you’re not supposed to do this!”  I was a little surprised, “What do you mean?”  He responded, “Well we have a social media connection.” 

Since I hadn’t read the rule book, I was too dumb to stop, so I said, “Well it seems like it would be interesting to get to know each other in more than 140 characters, or through blog posts.  I just wanted to learn a little about you and get to know you better.”  We went on, had a great conversation, and have a deeper relationship.  We still interact principally through the tools—they are convenient and efficient, but we’ve learned to pick up the phone and talk every once in a while.  We still are trying to align meeting in an airport somewhere in the world.

I continue to embrace social media—but I think I want to focus more on the social part of it.  The value of these tools is in helping to connect, helping to form “interdependent relationships,”  helping to see each other as humans rather than bit streams.

Is this a big violation of the rules?  Will my Twitter ID be revoked and I’ll be kicked off Facebook and LinkedIn?  I hope not.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Dave Brock
Dave has spent his career developing high performance organizations. He worked in sales, marketing, and executive management capacities with IBM, Tektronix and Keithley Instruments. His consulting clients include companies in the semiconductor, aerospace, electronics, consumer products, computer, telecommunications, retailing, internet, software, professional and financial services industries.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Social tools (media) are great, but as you put it so well, that doesn’t make someone social.

    When email became the next big thing, some used email to avoid talking person-to-person. Now the same is happening with social media.

    In time, people will learn that social media is just another channel, and will use it when it makes sense and not as a substitute for real relationships.

  2. Bob, each new technology seems to have the same impact. In the end, they add to our tool chest, the best people leverage many tools, each for the appropriate purpose and channels.

    I can’t imagine a sales professional not leveraging social media and networking, but not exclusively. Regards, Dave

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