Monday, November 23, 2009

Social Media

The whole phenomenon of social networking web sites such as Facebook, MySpace, and LinkedIn is very interesting. To me, these phenomenon indicate a real need, or possibly a pent-up demand, to be connected, or to be part of something larger than ourselves.

I remember when I was in Junior Hi and High School how important it was to feel connected to the “right” people. I will admit that remembering back that far taxes my brain, but the best as I can recall, being seen with the people we considered important, or the people that we wanted to be identified with, was a big deal. Being shunned could be a devastating blow to the ego. Some of the people in my circle used the word “status.” We were always gaining or losing status based on what we said and did and we would readily point it out to each other. It sounds cruel, but in retrospect it may have been good training.

As an adult in business, these connections became quantified. Knowing the right people and more importantly, making sure they knew you, could be the difference between success and failure in finding a job, building a business, or following a career.

As time has gone on, I have come to realize more and more the importance with building quality relationships with all sorts of people. Many people make the mistake of limiting their relationships to only those people who can help them. The Bible says in the book of James, “If a man enters your church wearing an expensive suit, and a street person wearing rags comes in right after him, and you say to the man in the suit, ‘Sit here, sir; this is the best seat in the house!’ and either ignore the street person or say, ‘Better sit here in the back row,’ haven't you segregated God's children and proved that you are judges who can't be trusted?” (James 2 from The Message)

Yes, everybody is important and all relationships are important. I think this is the underlying understanding that drives sites like Facebook. The problem comes when we begin to confuse “friends” with Friends. It is remarkably easy to click on the “add friend” button and remarkably hard to develop and maintain true friendships.

The secret to long lasting relationships lies in our tongue and in our actions; what we do and what we say have long lasting effects. Colossians 4:6 in The Message says, “Make the most of every opportunity. Be gracious in your speech. The goal is to bring out the best in others in a conversation, not put them down, nor cut them out.” It sounds like Paul could have led a few sales training seminars.

LinkedIn and Facebook may be good at keeping track of who we know or finding long lost acquaintances, but the danger is in thinking that a posting on a wall is communication; a tweet, is conversation; or a that a “connection” can make us connected. Face to face people are still where it’s at and reaching out to someone can’t be done by texting or sending a card.