If you’re like me, leading an online lifestyle has become second nature. So much so, that conversations about the downside of social networking rarely crop up (the topics of cyber bullying and “too much information” notwithstanding). Hanging out online is part of our daily routines, just as brushing our teeth and getting to the gym. Other than my eyes and fingers, which could definitely use a hiatus from the computer, the rest of me is all in.
So when a client—younger than me by about 20+ years—commented about being “over social media,” it got my attention. Especially because her lamenting came on the heels of a lengthy meeting, set to get her blog on track, beef up the content on her Facebook and LinkedIn pages, and give her Twitter profile a little more flair.
Talk about the quintessential love-hate relationship…
Her concern, she said, was that her peers seemed to be losing their edge in “live” social situations, and less able to engage in meaningful dialogue than she remembered in high school and college. More importantly, she expressed worry over losing the opportunity to connect with others in her industry (interior design) and to clients on a personal level—relationships she hopes to foster as part of her still blossoming professional journey. For her, digital “facetime” just doesn’t cut it, at least not when it comes to business networking.
Like most people I know, I am very enamored with social media. Not so much the metrics (that’s on my necessary evil list), but the snippets of conversation, the witty commentary, the cyber bonding between industry peers, the peek into my kids’ college lives, the link sharing, the food porn, the kid photos… I welcome it all.
At the same time, popping in on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Paper.li, Storify, Pinterest and Hootsuite as often as I do—despite the fact that my job requires constant activity on these sites—undeniably distracts me from other pressing to-dos, including face-to-face networking.
While I do feel a stronger connection to the outside world than I used to, working for a magazine where I was perpetually hunkered down in my office, trying to keep pace with deadlines, I see myself spending more time exchanging dialogue online than via the phone or over lunch and coffee. Part of this has to do with juggling numerous responsibilities, and having my head down from the moment I wake up to the moment I go to bed.
My guess is that this is a familiar scenario, but one that many of us are starting to question. The workload we can’t do much about, but coming up for air and at least commiserating together, in-person, might make us feel better.
Having a strong online presence is an important component to growing your (or your client’s) business (as the “gurus” constantly remind us), but it is not the only one. Personal interaction is crucial in developing meaningful relationships—something those in the service industry understand. The rest of us know this too, but tucked away in our corner of the digital universe, we assume that everyone else is similarly swamped, and thus content to communicate via email or social media inboxes, rather than get derailed by a phone call or off-site rendezvous.
It’s not likely we’ll cash in our social media chips anytime soon, nor would that even be wise. Staying focused during the workday/week is critical in a flailing economy compounded by increased competition, but it’s a safe bet that plenty of people would embrace locking up the devices (and the laptop) for a chance to socialize, brainstorm, swap stories and tell jokes the old-fashioned way. This is especially true during the holidays when we’re all craving a dose of seasonal spirit.
What are you waiting for? Extend that invite.