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Is Social Media Real Social?

Is Social Media Really Social?

Rarely does a day go by where I do not read something about the value of developing relationships on social media. It gives you the opportunity to reach many people every time you post something on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ or one of the numerous other sites available to you. It seems like everyone is involved in sharing – whether it is important information or not.

Some people have thousands of followers or “friends” online that they communicate with every day. On the surface, there is value to being more connected to family members, friends, and business associates. It breaks down the barriers of distance and time by allowing you to communicate with each other 24/7.

Even so, what is meant to connect people at a higher level could actually be isolating them as well. 

I say this because participating in social media can arguably be more passive than active especially from the standpoint of not having a two-way conversation in real time. You cannot touch the person. Feel his/her presence in the room. Or share information in the most meaningful way.

Social media (and texting) takes away the need to talk to one another, just as the telephone took away the need to visit someone. Everything you need to know is online.

Although we are more accessible than ever before, is it working for us or against us? 

Some might agree, social media is taking the place of spending quality time with family, friends, and associates. How often do you see a group of people eating dinner in a restaurant with one or more of them posting, tweeting, or texting? Or, are in a meeting with someone who is paying more attention to the conversation on their smart phone rather than you? Or, not able to get someone on the phone …who sends you a text almost immediately after you leave a voice mail…instead of returning your call?

Isolation or just not “being present in the moment” can lead to loneliness which has a dramatic impact on a person’s level of energy – the lonelier or less aware the person feels, the less likely that he/she will be motivated into action.

Social interaction is important to everyone’s well-being.

One could argue that loneliness and being alone is not the same thing. Some people are perfectly content being by themselves. Even so, social media, as well as many other online applications, has reduced the need to meet in person and, with that, the ability to form a meaningful bond with another person. Over the past 25 years, there has been a dramatic decrease in the number of confidants or quality social connections in a person’s life. One survey found that the average number of personal confidants has decreased from three people in 1985 to two in 2004 and only one today. A 2010 AARP survey found that 35% of people older than 45 were chronically lonely, as opposed to 20% of a similar group a decade earlier.

Try something novel the next time you want to go online to interact.

Pick up the phone or stop by someone’s house or office instead. I am always grateful to have a conversation with someone in person. It gives me the opportunity to express myself in a way that cannot be captured behind a computer. Be social outside of social media. The power of the spoken word is amazing.

How have you been successful in balancing your social interactions, whether in person or virtual? Please share below!

Zackarie Lemelle
Managing Partner, Leadership Engagement Services
Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (iPEC)

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