Thereâ€™s been a lot of buzz lately about declining human interaction as social networking sites continue to proliferate. The latest entrant, Google+, joins an already crowded field of competitorsâ€”including Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Myspaceâ€”in the social networking/micro-blogging arena. (Wikipedia lists over 200 well-known sites battling for our eyeballs.)
With all of this activity, sometimes it seems like everyone is onlineâ€”and many clients who I work with as a life coach feel discouraged about this. But a recent Wall Street Journal article makes the point that Facebook users in the United States have started to decline, and despite its novelty, Google+ traffic is already waning as well. The article goes on to say that although many predicted early on that social networking would gradually decrease our reliance on face-to-face communication, data show the opposite is true. This is because much of the value inherent in human contact canâ€™t be effectively translated to the web.
What does this mean for you and your career? Clearly, social networking isnâ€™t going away any time soon, and we wouldnâ€™t want it to. It offers a useful service by helping us to stay in contact with a much wider range of contacts than we could previously. (One thing Iâ€™ve personally appreciated about LinkedIn is how much easier it is to find contact information of former colleaguesâ€”especially given how much more frequently people change companies these days.)
And yet, if we rely on social networking too much, we miss chances for live meet-ups and in-person networking. There is only so much time in the dayâ€”outside of our core responsibilitiesâ€”for networking. Itâ€™s good for our careers and souls to ensure that a good portion of this time is spent nurturing relationships face-to-face, not face-to-screen.
Here are some reasons why:
You can get to know people differently in person. Few would argue the point that online interactions just donâ€™t cut it when it comes to getting the full picture about someone. Although some people feel more comfortable interacting electronically rather than live, when it comes to both workplace and personal interactions, it is important to know who youâ€™re dealing with. And you can only determine this once you have met someone.
So much is communicated by body language and other social cues that you canâ€™t pick up on through Facebook. A prospective employer or client might have a perfect LinkedIn page, yet poor social skills or other red flags you would only see by meeting in person. Find out all you can when it comes to making important work-related decisions and building your professional networks.
Live connections can lead to jobs. Few people are hired sight unseen. By taking the time to develop your relationships through true meetings and outings, youâ€™re increasing your future job security by building a network you can truly turn to for career assistance.
Most of us have received a job request from someone weâ€™ve never met before on LinkedIn who is in desperate search of an opportunity. I donâ€™t know about you, but these random connections are not the first ones Iâ€™d think of helping to land a job. Iâ€™d be much more likely to respond to someone I know well, and who Iâ€™ve had sufficient personal experience with to recommend with confidence.
Networking events are fun! You canâ€™t have cocktails with a computer. And with so many great opportunities for professional networking, especially here in New York, why would you want to? Find a group to join that shares your industry or job-specific interests. Not only will you meet great career contacts, but youâ€™ll enjoy it, too.