Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Is our need to connect via Social Networking causing us to become disconnected?

The popularity of Social Networking and Social Media is growing at a phenomenal rate; there are literally hundreds of social networking sites; the top 3 being Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Facebook registers 700,000,000 visitors a month; that is a staggering number of people connecting with friends, relatives and with friends of friends of friends; no matter where in the world they are. In 2009, the Prompt Survey, predicted that “Facebook may be replacing email and text messaging as a more popular way to stay in touch with friends and family on line'.
What is so special about Facebook?
When we meet someone new, we instantly Facebook them and add them as a friend. We can wish Happy Birthday to someone we barely know or have not spoken to in decades; we use our Facebook page as our personal soap box to promote our causes and beliefs. We can ‘post’ about anything, in the certainty, that someone somewhere will read it, 'comment' or ‘like’ it. We are subjected to, and we in turn subject others, to our opinions and our state of mind, mood, love life, home life, pets and children and even our unborn children (yes, parents-to-be keep us all updated by posting ,monthly and sometimes weekly, ultra sound pictures of their unborn children; thankfully we have not reached the stage when they are posting the actual birth pictures. Well, not yet anyway!).
A quick scan of our Facebook page will tell us who is having a good day or a crappy one, who is in a relationship or breaking up, who is having a birthday or sitting for an exam, got a new job, lost a job, went for a walk, went on holiday, came back from holiday, who had a great night (and posted pictures to prove it) and who did not. We can connect with people from our past, even those who we have not given a thought to in years (probably for a good reason). Via Facebook mobile applications, we remain connected and we can let people know where we are, with whom and show visually what a great time (or not) we are having.
We have become preoccupied with broadcasting our life and sharing it with the world at large. Why do we want to be spectators in the minutiae of each other's daily life?

Celebrities can count thousands of ‘friends’ on their Facebook page, while the average person has anywhere from 150 to 1000+. Teenagers rate their popularity and each others' by the number of 'friends' they can claim on thier Facebook page, so the more 'friends', the more popular you are.
We seem to be drunk on connecting and sharing every aspect of our lives with the world and its aunt. Why are we so eager to publically post details (and pictures) of our lives that were once only shared within immediate family and/or with close friends? What drives us to live so precariously through a social network portal? All the while, everything we write, every picture we post, becomes public information. And yes, we actually do willingly give social networks permission to use our data in any way they want.
Social Networking's Dark Side
It is disturbing that Facebook allows anyone to view your profile, page and pictures anonymously. In fact, it's creepy. In cases of jealous partners and/or exes, this can and does cause a lot of problems for all concerned.  Then there is the cyber stalking that is prevalent and unstoppable and let's not forget the bullying that is rampant amongst the kids , where a victim is cruelly and publicly humiliated on line. According to cyber law expert Parry Aftab, ' cyber bullying is a pandemic that continues to worsen. She estimates that at least 40 percent of high school students have been cyber bullied while in high school and that the figure is nearly double among middle school students'.

Social Networking for Justice
The biggest advantage of social networking is the ability to quickly raise awareness locally and globally. The speed in which this can be achieved is incredible. As in the case of the 2 Essex boys, Kyle Thain & James Harris  (www.
The boys are falsely accused of a crime that they could not have possibly committed and they have been held in a Spanish jail since July 2011. The daily posts and continuous updates on their Facebook page Help Our Boys not only raises awareness of their unfortunate and tragic situation, it also motivates people to add their support in whatever way they can (donations, petitions, fund raising etc.).
The online presence of the Help Our Boys page serves to highlight and publicly condemn the injustice being perpetuated against Kyle and James by the Spanish Government.
LinkedIn...500+ is the magic number
A 100,000,000 of us visit  LinkedIn (the 3rd most popular social networking site) every month and the number increases daily. 
However, you are not considered a player if you don’t have at least 500+ connections on LinkedIn. (There are even courses and workshops on how to promote yourself on LinkedIn in order to get more connections).

LinkedIn promotes itself as a professional network, although recently, it seems to have become more of a job board. Yet its popularity is growing (although no one seems to know why) and professional business people are very industriously preoccupied with connecting, to everyone and anyone. LinkedIn also has business groups which, likeminded professionals can join in order to share ideas, experiences and promote themselves and so we connect to them as well.  Like Facebook, LinkedIn allows us to update our status and on LinkedIn this also serves us well in self-promotion. If we are at a business event, promoting a new book, service or product, entertaining clients, on a business trip, or any of the other things that will promote us or our business, then we update our status to reflect our movements.

Does adding Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to our website add any value to our business?
Business and market analysts have us believing that today, social networking and media is the only way to grow a business, to attract customers and survive in this downward economy. We are a long way from that stage, considering that social networking is still very much in its infancy. It is all so new and untested that no one, not even those who claim to be Social Media experts know how it will or what it will evolve into. At the moment, social networking is still in a very static mode. It seems to work within a one size fits all approach, forcing you to conform to a pre-defined personal and business template.
What next?
Yet, it seems that Social networking is fast becoming the basis of our whole social and business existence. If you are not connecting via Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter (and preferably all three), you are somehow deemed irrelevant. After all, if you are not connected, then how can you showcase your personal and business life every minute of every day?(I know of only one person who has not succumbed to Facebook, and that would be my eldest son, although he recently did open a LinkedIin and Google+ account).
If social networking has made such an impact on the business world, could this be the catalyst that would inspire business leaders to overhaul the business model we are currently using and modernise it in order to reflect a changing society? It is hoped that new and emerging technologies will force the changes.
Who knows, perhaps within a few years, Facebook may be replaced by an application that is integrated in to our mobile phone and that will monitor and record our every move, thought and conversation while updating the information to all our connections in real time, all the time. How annoying would that be?

We are connected
So, once we get all these connections, then what? and seriously, so what?
It seems to be so very superficial and one sided and there seems to be no depth to the connections; it appears that 85% of the time, it seems to be primarily about grandstanding. However, it does fulfil its objective which is to connect people. And it does that very well. 

Is it worth the effort?

Social networking is also very time consuming. According to a report by The Henry Kaiser Family Foundation, “GenerationM2: Media in the Lives of 8- to 18-year-olds, teens in the US spend an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes on daily social media and networking , that’s about 53 hours a week. The number for teens around the world is probably very similar.
It is estimated that we require 2 to 4 hours a day to be effective business social networkers. And according to Digital Buzz over 700 billion minutes a month are spent on Facebook.
We are spending so much of our time virtually connecting, yet it seems that the more we connect, the more disconnected we become.





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