Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Knowing One Another in an Age of Social Media

Whenever I met someone who knew someone from my Alma Mater, I'd usually answer that the name was familiar but I may not have known them. Even though it was a small college, it wasn't possible to know everyone. Besides for a time, I worked in the mail room so a lot of names were familiar to me. Familiarity is not the same as knowledge.

Similarly, and by admission I maybe in the bottom of the social media tiers in terms of connectedness, just being connected to the CEO of a Fortune 500 company through one acquaintance...who knows another acquaintance who is acquainted with me...can't even hint at knowledge of one another. An acquaintance is not a friend, no matter what Facebook insists. Through Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and any of the numerous other social media popping up, more people in your network is not the same as knowing more people.

Recently, a bible study group in which I participate raked the lawn of a family with the father suffering from ALS. We had a lot of fun. One of my friends said this was a good way to get to know people, by doing some work together. I added that I've always thought playing games was another way to get to know people and how competitive, cutthroat, honest and supportive they might be.

That's why I insist on visiting suppliers to see their operations. I want to know more about them than what's available on their website.

It's also why I want to network with different people as much as possible, especially potential clients. They need to get to know me a little bit, interact with me, see me in some social (perhaps public) settings to see if I have the integrity I claim. Do I compliment people who do good work in the restaurant? Am I appreciative of others' efforts? How do I provide suggestions and what is my motivation if I see an area for improvement? These are also some of the clues I use to evaluate new acquaintances.

Just don't watch me on the airplane. When someone slammed their seat backwards towards me, I almost lost it with frustration and anger over their inconsiderate attitude. If I'd had the laptop open on the tray table, or if I'd been bent over marking up a report, I might have had a damaged computer or nose as a result of my fellow passenger's action. I was very calm at the time but, for the next hour, I debated whether to make a suggestion that she be a little more careful next time. I didn't say anything to warn her against the potential. I decided not to be the curmudgeon or a jerk. I was sure I could maintain any composed demeanor. (So if someone slams their seat back into you on your next flight, I apologize to you for not grabbing the teaching moment with this person.) Now you know a little more about me that you wouldn't have learned through Facebook or LinkedIn.

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