Are Social Media Anti-Social?

Fascinating article in yesterday’s New York Times about the growing number of young people who are turning off Facebook.

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When I started reading it I thought it might have to do with privacy concerns or with cyber stalking. Instead, the focus was on something near and dear to my heart and which I think is applicable to any of us in business. We’ve discussed it before and I think it’s worth discussing again.

In a sentence or two:

One of Facebook’s main selling points is that it builds closer ties among friends and colleagues. But some who steer clear of the site say it can have the opposite effect of making them feel more, not less, alienated.

This is a phenomenon that’s been occurring since the advent of email, frankly, and persists into other forms of electronic communication.  Too many folks in business have given up direct human interaction with colleagues, partners, and customers.  Instead, we use email or quick messages via Twitter or Foursquare to check-in.  Not good.  Despite Skype‘s addition to Facebook, most of us don’t use video to communicate with others, but without it, how is one to read facial expressions and capture nuance?  Most of the folks I know don’t write as effectively as they speak, and emails tend to be terse (and always one-sided).

Call it Ritter’s Hierarchy of Interpersonal Communication, or call it a big “duh”, but the priority list is to see someone face to face before you call them, and to call them before you email them (a public message via social might be last on my list).  I’ve never understood how people who sit 25 feet from one another can use email to communicate.  As the article says, the ease with which one can check-in with folks also might lessen the quality of the interaction.

I use social media – they’re great for many things.  I do, however, make an effort to follow my own advice and check in via telephone with family, friends, and business partners on a regular basis.  I see what many of them are doing on Facebook or LinkedIn or Twitter.  Now it’s time to find out how they are.

How are you all?  Am I off-base here?

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Filed under digital media, Helpful Hints, Reality checks

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