The Horrible, Wonderful Truth About Social Media

While I’ve always considered myself reasonably up to speed in terms of technology, I’ll confess I can no longer keep up with the constant onslaught of new tools, apps, and messaging systems.  And if you’re able to do this, yourself, my hat’s off to you.

For example, a friend of mine recently asked if I used the mobile application Snapchat, which (as some of you may know) allows people to send each other photos and messages on their phones that “self-destruct” after 10 seconds or so.  Apparently it’s all the rage with teenagers these days.  And they use it for all sorts of purposes, even though for the life of me, it seems like the only thing a tool like that would be good for is to send somebody incriminating content that one would be too embarrassed to make available permanently.

There are also, of course, legions of folks that absolutely swear by Facebook.  They live on this system and constantly post on it throughout the day, loving the fact that they can keep people apprised on all the events in their life and continually follow what their friends are up to, in return.  As for myself?  It’s just not my thing.  Being a fairly private person, I only visit that site a few times a year, with one of these occasions usually being my birthday — since I feel compelled (as I should) to thank all the people whom Facebook robotically prompted to wish me well.

The point, though, is that arguing about the relative merits of various social media sites is passe these days.  And also largely irrelevant.  Tools will come and tools will go.  It’s time to accept that there will always be “different strokes for different folks” in terms of how various people like to interact — including stark differences between generations.  While one person may enjoy tweeting, the next might instead prefer skyping, texting, linking in, or snapchatting.  And you’ll also find nostalgic souls who eschew these technologies altogether and only catch up with their friends via face-to-face fashion.

So when people ask me which of these technologies is the best one, or that they should start using for professional or career purposes, my answer is pretty straightforward.  No matter which social media or communication tool you might experiment with, there’s only one relevant question to consider: “Does using (insert name of) social media application help you grow, strengthen, and deepen your network of relationships?”  If the answer is yes, and said tool is helping you deepen and expand your network of contacts, case closed.  Stick with it.  And if the answer is no, and a given tool isn’t really leading to any new or improved relationships, move on to the next one.  There are certainly plenty of choices.

As I’ve said for years, social media should be viewed in the context of relationships, not technology.  The technology part is rudimentary.  And when you embrace the fact (as so many professionals often figure out the hard way) that the more people you know, the more successful your career will likely be, it becomes silly to argue about which specific sites, tools, or applications may be “better” than any others.  If whatever tool you’re using works for you and facilitates your ability to build and maintain relationships, go for it.

That’s where the younger generations may end up having the last laugh.  Some of the ways they interact might seem alien to us old timers, but I bet you the average kid out of high school or college today has a LOT more relationships in place than the rest of us did at an equal age.  When the time comes to harness that connectivity for career purposes, it becomes an immensely powerful thing!

P.S. On the flip side, of course, I simply have to mention the one caveat — which is to realize that anything you text, tweet, snapchat, or pass along electronically is essentially going down on your permanent record.  Even for supposedly “confidential” tools like Snapchat, there are numerous studies (such as the recent one here) warning that this content doesn’t magically disappear.  So leverage these tools to their fullest extent, but be prudent about what you share on them.  Are you listening, Anthony Wiener?


One Response to “The Horrible, Wonderful Truth About Social Media”

  1. Excellent points about the next tool serves to strengthen relationships. These tools can also open doors for introductions as a stranger can better understand someone’s character and expertise since the conversations are transparent to the world. “Use with caution”. 🙂

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