Can social networking exist in a vacuum?

I read a lot of blogs lately talking about how social networking is single-handedly lowering the real-life social skills of an entire generation, that it hampers effective social change, that it kills productivity. At the same time, I read articles about the miracle of social networking, how it’s keeping people connected and helping form new connections in both our personal and business lives by bringing niches together without geographic constraints. What is undeniable is that connecting is important, that the bonds we form personally can be used to further our business goals, and that the people we meet in the workplace or through business networking can become part of our personal lives.

With all of the hype surrounding social networking, the articles on weak ties, etc. I wonder what good social networking actually is if you don’t have the opportunity to meet any of the people you are connecting with. For example, CoolPeopleCare blogger Sam Davidson recently visited Madison to meet with Modite blogger Rebecca Thorman. Employee Evolution bloggers Ryan Paugh and Ryan Healy moved from New Jersey to Wisconsin to co-found a company with BrazenCareerist author and blogger Penelope Trunk. What is it about the personal contact of meeting someone in person? There is something undeniable about that face-to-face connection solidifying what you’ve built up via social networks.

Perhaps there is a bit of jealousy that runs through me that these groups of bloggers have the opportunity to work in such close proximity to one another, or at least fly to each other. Groups breed creativity and allow ideas to grow. I’ve also blogged about accountability partners and how being around one or a group of like-minded individuals who are striving toward goals as well can keep you moving forward, increasing productivity and helping you meet your goals faster.

I live in mid-sized town in south Texas. For those of you in big cities, mid-sized means about 300,000 people. That’s pretty small. Not being from Texas and not having a lot of the same political, religious or social ideals as most people in my area compounds the problem. It’s near impossible to search out people who have similar goals (OK, any goals) whom I can connect with. Granted, social networking has allowed me to reach out to other people like myself, including those I mentioned above, and to keep up with the ones I meet who move away.

At some point, though, I do see myself meeting with the ones I form stronger-than-weak ties with via social networking, which is what brings to me back to the original question. Can social networking effectively exist in a vacuum? Or, is it necessary at some point in the relationship to make face-to-face contact?

2 Responses to “Can social networking exist in a vacuum?”

  1. Send Out Cards Success says:

    Hi Holly, well written article, I really like your style.

    I feel there are many pros and at the same time cons when it comes to the subject of social networking.

    But primarily, I look at the pros. As a marketer, the relationships I have been able to first create online, and then subsequently cultivate, have been just wonderful.

    Depending on the nature of the relationship, I don’t necessarily think a face to face, or real world consummation is entirely necessary in most cases.

    Continued Success To You,

    Todd Schager

  2. Rebecca says:

    It depends on what type of relationship you are trying to make. Real face-to-face contact will always trump social networking when building strong ties. Social networking is sufficient and makes it easy for weak ties.

    I think it’s natural for people to meet up eventually, or taper off with the contact. It’s hard if not impossible to maintain a relationship purely though social networking.

    That said, I think it’s a big of a cop out to think there isn’t somebody in your city that you can’t relate to. Madison is “mid-sized” at 215,000 and there is such a variety of people.

    Great post, thanks for getting me thinking.

    (And I LOVE your new look ;)

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