As I was writing the IT Element ‘Networks’ it occurred to me that the word has taken on a whole new meaning and importance in society in general – not just referring to computer & rail networks – but all the social media channels and virtual digital connections in our lives.
People once belonged to societies, clubs and groups.
(Ed. they still do!)
Friendship, church and school groups infer a sense of membership and exclusivity, participation in a community of shared interests, history, culture or demographics. Membership of off-line groups may be informal or formal, but are normally a binary state [member | non-member], whereas new world and social media networks, in their defence, are much easier to join and have a potentially richer set of nuanced states.
Networking, of the people kind, used to be mostly about business-related relationships, not something you would do with or to friends, I mean real friends of the flesh-and-blood type, not the shallower virtual relationships that we increasingly take for granted.
Within a generation everyone now builds and maintain networks. An individual’s work, social and family life is measured as quotients of ‘Friends’, ‘Connections’ & ‘Followers’…also, for that matter ‘Likes’, ‘Shares’ etc.
This is not a rant against the advances of technology deeper into our daily lives, I work in IT and find technology fascinating, liberating and often life-affirming. But, I also have – I hope – a more balanced middle-aged perspective on some of the problems that an over-reliance on technology can cause. I like to think that I have a foot in both camps, and that there is a healthy balance to be found, although it takes some effort to find and continually recalibrate it.
Since I have been blogging I have come across a lot of people – let me call them acquaintances for now – who work in this amorphous space, in careers that could not exist without the internet, mobile, smart devices, instantaneous global communication, ecommerce & home-working. It is still early days and there is time for the language we use to catch up with the new paradigm, and for meaningful interactions and engagement to win the day.
Clicking a ‘Like’ button is such a trivial investment in time and commitment. However, there are opportunities, if there is the will, to build stronger online relationships and have more meaningful and productive conversations via Social Media.
And finally; consider what your network(s) are really for (who and what do they serve?) and be careful not to confuse real friends, family & colleagues with all the other connections that you make as you pass through cyberspace.
And, of course, I’d love you to be in my network 🙂
(c) 2015 Antony Lawrence CBA Ltd.