Social Networking or Networking Socially?

The second post in our summer-intern blog series was authored by Meaghan Davison from Gonzaga University. The first post, written by Forrest Hanson, can be found here. Take it away, Meaghan!

– Bri and Dave

We all see them. Perhaps we are among the guilty ones. We see them at restaurants: Families at dinner; each member plugged into his or her iPad, iPhone or iPod. We see them at work: Colleagues texting and checking statuses on social networking sites while simultaneously attempting to engage in a conversation with a co-worker. While it is important to embrace new avenues of communication, I can’t help but wonder — What ever happened to face-to-face communication?

This past weekend, Americans across the country celebrated our independence and freedom. Families and communities gathered at barbecues, baseball games, parades and fireworks to commemorate our founders and the American Revolution with American traditions. However, amid the festivities, I realized many people failed to put aside the technology to enjoy the family and friends around them. Is this the new American society? Do we prefer virtual (and often anonymous) communication to real personal contact? Does technology intended to facilitate connections disrupt actual human relationships?

Coincidentally, a few days earlier on June 30, the world celebrated another revolution with Social Media Day. Mashable CEO Pete Cashmore proclaimed Social Media Day as “a day to celebrate the changes in media that have empowered us to stay connected to information in real time, the tools that have enabled us to communicate from miles apart…” (see embedded video below). While a day dedicated to the appreciation of social media seems harmless, it also seems pointless. Americans celebrate Independence Day to focus upon the freedoms we often take for granted. By contrast, a social media commemoration seems unnecessary when technology is so omnipresent in our daily lives that we sleep with Blackberries and check Facebook and Twitter every half hour.

Indeed, in response to Mr. Cashmore’s holiday, Jay Dolan, a self-proclaimed Anti-Social Media blogger, urged a counter celebration of June 30 as Anti-Social Media Day. Dolan understands and appreciates the importance of social media, but mocks society’s dot-com addiction. Perhaps Anti-Social Media Day is an excessive and harsh response to Cashmore’s focus on the benefits of the technological revolution. Yet, Dolan offers some easy suggestions, which can be adapted in the office to facilitate personal connections and build a team mentality.

  • Call someone on the phone: Instant messaging a co-worker is certainly easy, but can lead to miscommunication and confusion. The lols, nps and smiley faces all possess ambiguous meanings. Pick up the phone, dial the extension and listen to the person’s voice to obtain nuance and emotion. If uncertainty exists, or you receive a voice mail…
  • Walk over to your co-worker’s desk: Have a face-to-face conversation. Conversation offers a nice change of pace, and you might gain a clearer understanding of what task must be accomplished, what needs to be changed, and how to tackle a problem. A person’s expression can convey confusion or doubt lost in e-mail. Additionally, a short walk and change of environment might stir your own creativity.
  • Leave a note: If a colleague is not at his or her desk, leave a message. A handwritten, delivered note suggests a sense of urgency and reflects a special respect for your colleagues’ opinions and expertise. A note demonstrates comfort with your relationships as well as a commitment to diligence about producing quality work in a timely fashion.

Undoubtedly, modern technology offers incredible and unparalleled opportunities to rapidly acquire and disseminate information, expand knowledge, and establish global contacts. So, too, technology, social networking and integrated communications are essential to successful public-relations campaigns. Twitter, Facebook, texting and e-mails are all integral and necessary components of our efforts to stay connected and current.

Yet, in a field in which effective networking and communication is necessary, a dedicated professional also must maintain healthy relationships with clients and co-workers. Face-to-face conversations offer invaluable opportunities to glean emotional reactions to our ideas as well as to build trust and collegiality essential to success on future projects. Teamwork will be enhanced only to the extent social networking does not displace networking socially. At the foundational level, public relations must begin with networking socially, that is respecting clients and co-workers, while employing social networking to service these relationships. Technology should be a tool to enhance our lives, not a new reality to replace humanity. An emphasis on networking socially maintains a focus on the importance of teamwork, customer service and strong personal relationships. Such an approach ensures social networking serves our values and goals.

– Meaghan

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3 Responses

  1. Great write-up and topic, Meaghan! I really dislike feeling tethered to my phone and computer. I try to break away quite often.

  2. Thanks for writing about Anti-Social Media Day! I live in an area where we frequently have social media meet ups, so to me the idea originally seemed redundant and unnecessary. I do honestly love getting out into the world and meeting the person behind the avatar. It’s builds a much stronger relationship with the person in all senses.

  3. […] Social Networking or Networking Socially? […]

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