“500 plus friends online….the person must be the loneliest creature on the planet”, said a journalist friend on the trend to be open networker and befriending those with whom one has never even met. A very private person and open critic of sharing personal and professional life with unknown people online, he was out rightly dismissing the idea of social and professional networking online.
Well, I must admit that the argument has its merit even though I am myself glued to online communities for a large part of my personal and professional hours.
In an honest confession, I must admit that the networking forum like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter plays an influential role in my own social/networking life. I may pretend that I remain absolutely committed on a professional level, but the fact of the matter is that networking sites for me has happened like a deal with an open community. In my otherwise personal and professional life I have maintained a very strict admittance criteria for close friends and family only.
However, Facebook provides me a forum for trivial news share that I am always not very comfortable to discuss in an open forum. LinkedIn and Twitter has further helped me segregate such trivia from the more academic business exchanges I have contributed to, and profited from. Still the argument of my critic friend has forced me to introspect deep. Why??? May be because my growing sense of consciousness, backed by a few social research, has been telling me that the quality of relationships may actually be falling victim to the new-age networking tools.
Without knowing it, or at least without any conscious design, social media has also transmitted loneliness and a sense of social disconnection. In recent years, virtual escapism has effected change in numerous social groups and has given birth to new streams of revenue. Technology has drawn us into our interconnected webs, in the office, on the street, on the park bench, to the point that we exist virtually everywhere except in the physical world.
The quality time spent with friends and peer professionals is gradually getting less and we are subconsciously becoming a victim of internet obsession. Internet and its online communities are by its clinical nature cutting down the more fallible nature of human discourse: emotion, innuendo, political sniping. It lends a more objective, less risk-laden and therefore, I suppose, innocuous form of discussion. It’s an ideal channel for those wishing to avoid the intricacies of complex humanity and family ties.
Relationships, both personal and professional, are hard work. Just because someone retweeted your post doesn’t mean you have a workable relationship with that follower. In order to nurture and sustain a viable connection with someone, you must have personal contact that not only reinforces what you are doing but who you are as a person and a professional. Social Media removes you from personal interaction with other people subsequently reinforcing social ineptitude.
Being a student of Freudian school of human emotions, I have always been interested in human presence and reaction and know from experience that reading faces, listening to tone beyond words and pure personal chemistry form the most powerful basis for collaborative and gratifying relationships. I must admit that such a holistic dialogue process cannot be sustained by networking sites alone.
The realization grew deeper in me be the mere phone call of a close friend, whom I have not seen for a long while. An admittedly internet addict in me suddenly felt an emotional chord by the vocal conversation and it gave me the realization of how much I value human interaction; and more importantly, of how much of it was moving away as our collective addiction to online community intensified.
While the online community is, and will remain an important aspect of today’s global networking, I have taken a conscious decision that I will never escape my nature. I’m a humanist, a communicator. Words, expression, nuance have always been the make-up of my character as well as the tools of my trade. Some where the modern day communication had created a widening gap between the conscious and subconscious mind, and it was the physical presence of a journalist friend, a one-to-one discussion that goaded me to bridge this ever widening gap.
I do hope that my peer group who swear by the online reputation management will not consider my conscious decision as an indictment of my proclaimed aptitude thus far. After all, I am not shutting down all the modern day dialogue channels, just trying to be more social on the parameters other than the social media.
By: Ravi Sinha