Monday, January 26, 2009

Social-Networking Sites Should Supplement Interpersonal Communication NOT Supersede It

Earlier this month, a Time magazine reporter asked in an article whether Facebook replaces face time or enhances it.

My vote is the latter.

Social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace,, LinkedIn and even the microblogging site Twitter all should supplement your daily personal and work interactions, but NEVER serve as a substitute for face-to-face encounters.

Sure, it’s a lot easier to log onto your favorite site, type for a few minutes – maybe IM someone or “send a drink request” via Facebook -- than scraping off your car in the dead of winter to fight traffic, or take a train, plane, taxi or bus to meet someone.

But, I ask you to consider … what price do you pay for this comfort?

A friend’s hurt feelings? A confused client? Upset relatives?

Reading words on a screen, even with a video and/or audio element added, is not -- and, never will be -- the same as having a real dialogue in person.

Many times there are subtle nuances to communication and body language that “speak” far greater than actual words. How does this non-spoken “conversation” get conveyed online?

It can’t. But, worse, yet, often the message being sent and even its tone are misunderstood or misconstrued by the recipients.

Before you drop your Internet access, and close your online accounts, I’m not suggesting that you do this -- or even resolve to meet everyone in your network once a week or even monthly.

I am simply reminding everyone of the importance of a phone call and in-person encounter as part of the communication “mix.”

So, the next time you consider sending your former colleague a friend request, sit back, log off, and pick up the phone. Or, schedule a visit the next time you’re in his or her neighborhood.

I guarantee you that the impact you make in reconnecting with this person in such a manner, will far exceed the actual cost of the call or gas in your car.

Nothing speaks volumes more than a real-life hug or handshake.

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