The more I sit here thinking about this question, the more I want to believe that Social Media is making us more social. And, in all reality, I think it is. But there are some serious red flags that we need to be aware of and some pitfalls we need to avoid falling victim to.
Here are some of the concerns we need to understand when it comes to Social Media:
We’re tied to our computers and mobile devices
Those of us who know we’re guilty of this are either OK with it, or just accept it for what it is. I know I’m guilty, and my husband will be the first to tell you that my smartphone is always within an arms reach of me. We may even miss things going on around us because we’re too focused on the conversations we’re having on Twitter. We interrupt a conversation because we get a Facebook notification that someone liked the picture of our pet we posted 4 hours ago. We need to make the concerted effort to make time for the people around us and keep our Social Media time for when it’s appropriate.
We define our social status on the number of “friends” we have
We’ve all seen the commercials and marketing campaigns that make fun of the people at home on their computers, talking about how many “friends” they have, while others are out living their lives in the “real world”. I’ve even heard people brag on their dates about how many Facebook friends they have. We see people who have 50,000 Twitter followers and imagine them to be the equivalent of the popular kid in high school. We celebrate our milestones – 500 LinkedIn connections, 1000 Twitter followers, etc. These numbers shouldn’t define us so strictly. 200 dedicated and valuable followers can be more influential than 20,000 casual followers.
We get to choose our entertainment
We’re all at least a little selfish and I may not have the same interests as the person sitting next to me. Social Media allows us to find others like us and to search out items of interest to us to keep us entertained. I was recently out at a restaurant and waiting for a table was a family of four – each one on their own mobile device. One was on Facebook, one was texting, another was reading an article online, and I couldn’t scope the other one’s screen. Rather than talking as a family, they were each entertaining themselves with their own interests (to be fair, they may have been saving their family time for the dinner table). Since we get to spoil ourselves online, make sure to take time to provide our attention to those around us and encourage them to talk about what they enjoy too.
We rarely communicate via phone calls
Who picks up the phone when you can get the same message across in a couple of simple 140-character (or less) text messages or tweets? The only reason we know about the successes of our friends kids is because we see the images posted to Facebook weekly, not because we talked about it over the phone. Let’s face it, it’s easier and faster to send a quick DM, email, text, or post to connect with someone. This is all great, but just don’t lose the skills and interaction that can come from a genuine phone call or in-person chat. Use what we find on Social Media to enhance our communications with others.
So with all these concerns, are we really less social? On the surface, some may say yes. It looks like we’re disassociating ourselves from the “real world” and putting too much onus on the virtual world. And for some, this may actually be true. But for others, it may actually be quite the opposite.
In general, I am a very social person. I like to meet new people, learn about others’ perspectives, talk for hours to my girl friends on the phone, go out to networking events, etc. The best thing about Social Media for me, is that it takes these relationships to another level of connection. It allows me to get to know more about these people, find other similar interested people, and make even more connections. Social Media also allows me to interact with people from all over the world that I wouldn’t otherwise be able to meet or interact with.
Professionally, social networking is a great way to solidify long-term relationships. I may only get to meet a potential client once at a public encounter, and it may be months or years until they really need my services. Social Media gives me the opportunity to keep connected with this person on a regular basis so that when they are ready for my services, they immediately think of me first.
Social Media interaction is actually making business MORE social than ever before. They are actually communicating as people and individuals with their customers and clients. They are providing transparency and relationships to their customers.
And now for my moment of cynicism. For all those not on Social Media, who claim those of us who are online are simply losing touch with the real world – how social are you? Do you have an abundance of connections all over the world, how about your city, or even your neighborhood? The world is evolving and changing with technology and innovation. Social Media is the communication tool of the future (if you want to argue it isn’t already) and if you’re not online, then maybe you’re the ones who aren’t really social…
So as long we stay wary of the pitfalls of Social Media, we can actually use these tools to make ourselves more social! Keep focused on the human interactions and the in-person connections and use Social Media to enhance these relationships. Using these tools properly, we find ourselves to be the most socially connected generation of all time!