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?