Are you on Facebook? … Do you tweet? … How about a LinkedIn page? … or your own YouTube channel?
My guess is that social networking is here to stay. And if you’re not participating, you’re missing some pretty cool stuff. I know it’s not for everyone (my 82-year-old father isn’t on Facebook … my 82-year-old stepmother is). And I have friends who say, “If I want to learn about someone, I pick up the phone and call them.” I got it … it’s not for everyone.
On the other hand, social networking can be a wonderful way for family and friends to keep in touch. It can also be used as a business networking and communication tool. There are lots of others who have written rules of etiquette and do’s and don’ts.
My list describes how to participate in the ever-evolving world of social networking with Gumption.
Using the 7 principles of Gumption as a starting point, here are my suggestions for a productive and Gump-like social networking experience.
First, simply decide if you want to participate. Just because half the world is participating does not mean you have to … it’s still a choice. If you do decide to participate, take the time to learn how each social media outlet works and which one(s) are right for you, then learn how to use them correctly. You’ll want to get the most out of the experience for yourself and for those you’ve connected with.
Social networking is like a box of chocolates … you get to choose the medium and whether or not to participate.
This is pretty simple. Just be yourself. Don’t make up false identities. Don’t represent yourself as someone that you are not. And more subtly, don’t misrepresent your intentions. Learn the basic rules of etiquette … there are definite do’s and don’ts. Do be respectful of others and their privacy. Do share things of value and interest … leave all dirty laundry in the hamper (not on the World Wide Web).
Forrest’s mother said, “A promise is a promise.” Whether writing on a social site or speaking to another face-to-face … keep your promises. Avoid making promises you can’t or don’t intend to keep. Follow the Golden Rule!
I admit I was a little slow to jump on the Facebook bandwagon. I was hesitant since it was a brand-new medium that I didn’t know how to use. I instinctively wondered, “Why bother?” Now having been active for the past year and a half, I get it.
By simply being connected to family, I can see pictures of my brother’s grandkids, my niece’s photos from her trip to India, where my cousin’s son is going to school, and so on. What would have taken hours of phone calls, one-off emails, printing duplicates and the mailing of photographs, etc. is now possible with ease and speed. All of this neat trivia about loved ones is now available in an easy format to peruse, learn, and be more connected.
For a business networking tool I use LinkedIn. Being able to read about a new business connection’s schooling or previous work experience gives me the opportunity to make my next face-to-face meeting that much more meaningful. I better understand who they are. I have a better sense of their business needs. In five minutes, I can learn what would take months or a year … or probably never learn through casual or professional face-to-face time.
Social networking is an opportunity similar to the serendipitous feather that lands at Forrest’s feet. Feathers with photographs and information about family, professional contacts, and friends just land on your Facebook wall or anothers LinkedIn profile page. You get to pick up whatever bits and pieces you want.
Like any medium, tool, or game, responsible usage and behavior is essential. Too much of a good thing is a bad thing. Being present to what you’re doing at any moment in your life is the key. Being addicted and immersing yourself in social media 24/7 is not being present to all the other areas of your life.
The Roman writer Terence advised all things in moderation over two thousand years ago. It’s still true today and it’s true for social networking.
We do not drink and drive, we do not yell Fire in a theatre, and we do not use Facebook as a substitute for face-to-face time with spouses, children, and friends.
Parents especially need to be aware of young people’s participation on social sites. Predators and other creeps live (very anonymously) on social sites, just like they live in the real world.
And all savvy social surfing butterflies are well aware of the constant scams and phony offers just waiting to separate you from your money or your identity.
Remember the bad boys who threw rocks at Forrest’s head? Those same dudes are in cyberspace waiting to hurt you. Just run away when you see them or when something doesn’t feel right.
It’s really easy to try (and want) to see things in terms of black and white. My experience with social networking is that it’s not only a lot of shades of grey … but it’s a full spectrum of colors. Being open-minded to its value, its purpose, and the intentions of all the other people using this exciting new medium makes for a better experience. After all, social networking didn’t even exist just five years ago, and is something that most users are still just figuring out how to use.
When Bubba asked Forrest if he wanted to go into the shrimpin’ business, Forrest simply answered, “Oh-Kay.” How’d you like to participate in the revolutionary new world of social networking?
I’ve saved the best for last. It’s called social networking. Networking is defined as a supportive system of sharing information and services among individuals and groups having a common interest. Sharing means both giving and receiving.
One disappointment in my brief social networking experience has been the frequency of one-sided communication. For example, if you want to be friends or connected to someone you’ve never actually met, doesn’t it make sense to send a brief, personalized greeting along with the request? Sure, it takes an extra minute, but if you really want to be connected to someone (i.e., network), then give him or her a reason to want to be connected to you. That’s sharing.
Give first, give freely, and expect nothing in return. If you just take, others will get tired of giving. Sharing doesn’t work on a one-way street.
Sharing chocolates is a good thing; sharing your story with your friends is an equally good thing. Being interested in others’ stories is the best thing.
If you’re a savvy social networker already, then this little rant will not break any new ground for you. My only suggestion to you is to remain receptive to the changes and evolutions still to come.
If you’re brand new to the world of social networking, then dive in with Gumption. The water is fine … come on in!
Next Blog Title: Face Adversity with Courage
Next Blog Date: January 10, 2011