Oh, the humanity!

Seemed appropriate to re-release this, just as a reminder to exponents of social media. First published at Perspectives, on 10 March 2011

Social media really is the future. I mean, I know it’s here now, but it’s development across our society is not going to diminish, but continue to broaden and advance at exponential pace. It’s not easy to keep up with, as everyday somebody seems to come up with a new way to use even the more established online tools.

Those involved with social media, either through personal interest, work or both, have managed to create overlapping networks that have created a social space without geographic boundary (not withstanding those living in some rural parts of the country/world) . I find it difficult to get my head around how all this works and fits together, this virtual entity technology has allowed us to create.

The only way I can describe it, or make sense of it, is thinking of it as one huge living library. And I like that concept. A library, where all the books are online, mostly biographies, all telling their own story as time progresses; sometimes directly, other times indirectly just through your own reading; interactive imaginations that you link to, a virtual social world, that can even influence your own story. It’s getting away from me, this little concept…

Despite the social nature of those who sign up to these things, whether Twitter or Facebook, etc, for me there is still missing that real human element, whether that is through a face to face meeting, or a phone call.

A number of months ago I had a telephone conversation with somebody on a topic of personal importance to me. By today’s standards of communication, what was actually said could have been done using one of the aforementioned social media tools, more than adequately.

More recently, just the other week actually, I have had two separate lunch appointments with colleagues/friends. Did we need to? No, not really. Were there topics we could have discussed privately online? Yes, of course.

The point is, the phone call, the lunch meetings, meant a whole lot more. Each of us in someway had to make a bit of an effort; maybe brush our hair or something; walk somewhere; spend a few pounds. It was a real commitment, rather than it being all a bit #lazyweb.

Human contact, a handshake, sounds, expressions, laughs have a warmth about them that cannot easily (if at all) be truly expressed via words in social media. I took something from each of those ‘traditional’ communications I wouldn’t have been able to get elsewhere…and have used the wisdom of my opposite in each of those meetings since (whether they were aware of their wisdom, is really not the point).

Use social media, use it well, expand your knowledge and your range, break down the geographic boundaries; but where you get reasonable chance or opportunity, phone somebody or go out for lunch.

That is all.

Security level: Public


Stewart Horn 9 Years Ago
We'll have to meet up for a pint sometime...
David Bundy 9 Years Ago
Good article Spencer - sounds like you've conquered th 'meeting for meeting sake' syndrome...I'll be in touch, via Twitter of course!
Bryan Gladstone 9 Years Ago
Timely reminder to people, Spencer. In the late nineties through to 2002, I ran something called the Electronic Communications Forum. Most of the members were leading systems managers and developers of top blue chips, overwhelmingly concentrated in the IS sector. What was fascinating was that its meetings were entirely face-to-face, quarterly in London mainly. People flew in from Europe and the States even to attend. They all worked building the virtual systems we have today, but valued the Forum because of the human touch. Thanks for writing the blog.
Former Member 9 Years Ago
good post - made me think as i've separated out online and offline I use online for contact with those who are too far away and for quick info sharing But for those closer to home it is regular phone calls or lunches and text etc is the supplement
Lynn Preece 9 Years Ago
Thank you Spencer, I like your point. I am admittedly a slow starter when it comes to social media, but having started to discover it, I am finding it strangely addictive. In the evening at home I have started to find myself checking my facebook or twitter instead of spending the time with my kids! I guess like all good advice, it’s a case for ‘everything in moderation’.
Former Member 9 Years Ago
You have a strong point there, but what I do find useful about using these tools is that one can raise the awareness of some people through conversations with others, without them having to be directly involved in that conversation. Much the same, in fact as we are doing right now, with this CoP, only less formally. And it's hard to have lunch (as much as I'd love to!), or even a relaxed phone call with good friends, when people work different shift times or live on the other side of the globe. The difference made by Facebook, Twitter and their ilk, is that even a few spare seconds between other activities can be used to comunicate, while your friends/loved ones are busy with other things, where this was not possible before. Of course, you still can't beat a good lunch and a hug!
Former Member 9 Years Ago
I suppose it depends on how strong a relationship you have (or want?) with a particular person. Working with European colleagues I find face to face much better for anything important, people tend to stay silent on the 'phone if they're not that confident with their English language skills - usually unjustified to my total shame given my lack of anything other than basic french and beer-ordering skills in most other global languages. I find FB really good for keeping up with people I'm not really that close to but still want a relationship with. Anyway, people (and beer) are fun...
Former Member 9 Years Ago
"Your Gran died, LOL mum x" For me social media has it's place in my daily life, but it's all about the level of depth you need to pass on. There's a huge amount of ways to connect with people - tweeting (with different accounts?), updating facebook, texting, emailing, blogging, phoning someone, and meeting someone. Twitter is more conversational, with people I know, and don't know, bouncing mini messages back and forth - its easy to engage and drop out of conversations, but your conversations are public (unlike facebook where I try to lock it down). My tweets sometimes lead to a blog post - usually an A4 sheet of text, with a video / presentation / image inserted - it gives a good level of detail that you could never get in a tweet. What I'm getting at is that each platform places limits on the level of depth you can communicate with others - it's up to the user to decide which one to use (and what language is appropriate to use, " LOL" )
Spencer Wilson 9 Years Ago
I'm glad this post generated a range of comments, so thanks everybody. I wrote it because I am so terrifically bad at doing what I have preached above, other than on those three (plus a couple more) occasions. I am going to endeavour to do more of it (where the pennies allow, in regard to lunch). One of those lunches I mention was with a colleague, whom I have gotten to know via Twitter over the last 18 months or so. At one point, he worked on the floor below me. We didn't meet/speak to each other directly (other than a couple of passing hello's) during this whole time. That's bad! BUT...had it not been for Twitter, we would have most likely still been strangers to one another! To colleague responses: Stewart; give me a ring if you want that drink. David; lets stick to Twitter, I couldn't bare a lunch where you bang on about Arsenal the whole time