I was reading Chris Brogan's post "Is a social crash coming?" His point was that with close friends, social media can be a reminder that we've had little or no "real" contact. Chris explores the notion that he digitally "brushes past" people all the time via social media, and those close friends are constantly being reminded that he's around but hasn't been in touch.
I understand his point. But I think he missed the huge benefit that, for me at least, hugely outweighs that downside.
In two distinct areas, social media has revolutionised the way we can interact and remain in contact with people.
Extended family and acquaintances
Let me give you an example. When we lived in UK, we were almost exactly a mile from my brother in law's house. Once a month we'd meet at one of our places as a large family and enjoy lunch together. It was always a cacophony of kids and a maelstrom of conversation - if I was lucky I'd get 2 minutes of face to face time with him. The truth is I didn't know him at all, I didn't realise we shared so many common interests, and I had no real clue what was going on in his life.
But now that he has a blog and a Twitter account, I know what he's doing, even what he's thinking, on an almost daily basis. I can dip into his Facebook chats with his friends and have real conversations with him. I know him far better now that I live 2000 miles from him!
The same applies to that huge circle of people we would call acquaintances. When we left UK, we said goodbye to hundreds of them, with every intention of staying in touch. But of course, we didn't. But gradually, they have all got onto Twitter or Facebook, and we've found each other again. Thanks to social media.
Linkedin has been amazing for this, but so has Facebook and to a lesser extent Twitter. I recently got back in touch with a guy who was my boss at Toyota in the early 90's. Before social media that simply wouldn't have happened. I'm especially pleased as he has remained an inspiration to me ever since.
I think I'm probably in touch now with around half of the people I've worked with in my life, which is astonishing. And as well as being interesting and fun, those contacts have lead to direct business for me, as well as business from their contacts and friends.
So in summary, I don't think we're about to see any kind of crash. I think people will adapt to the digital "brush past" and realise it's just that. If they want some personal face time, then Twitter will tell them where I'm having coffee this morning.
How has social media impacted your "real life" contacts?
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