Do we need fancy websites, new applications, and cool new gizmos to have social networks? One might think so in this day and age. High school and college kids have one up on older folks here, the younger folks are painfully aware of their social networks.
The tools we have today may seem like the end all of social networking, but networking has been a skill since there were more than two humans. You and I are involved not just in networks enabled by Twitter or Facebook, but more likely, those tools support networks older than either one.
In fact, the very tools many of us have integrated thoroughly into our lives, have become even less enablers to our networks, but perhaps barriers and resistors to the growth of those networks. In the past, one simply became part of our networks by working at the same place, living in the same neighborhood, attending the same school, or shopping at the same local market. Today, many of us don’t consider those very same folks to be part of our social network, even folks we spend 40 hours a week next to.
Before I continue, I’m guilty of this same thing. Not intentionally, but by default. If people at work don’t make themselves more accessible than loaning me a pen, they’re pretty much out. If my neighbor doesn’t borrow sugar or loan me their lawnmower, we’d hardly know their names.
Now let’s assume the same neighbor signed up on Twitter, and somehow found out my Twitter ID, would that situation change? Well it depends. Is he a technofile? A photographer? Does he ooh and ah over the latest social media tool? Ultimately, does he enable my life and success in some way. If not? He’s likely just going to be someone that knows me and never engages with me, or vice versa. Wait, that’s much like our current arrangement.
Magnify this situation to include the thousands of random people out there that might actually have some similar interests to you or I, but we’ve never met, never chatted, and never heard of them. To make this more complicated, they are shy, or protective, or socially inept, so they don’t use even a name. Lots won’t have even a blog or some form of reference about themselves. These are the people that want in our networks.
These people, neighbors, strangers, spammers, odd followers and more want into our networks. They follow us on Twitter, Utterz, Facebook and our blogs. Some will track down our emails, and even rarer I hope, our phone numbers. The contacts start showing up all over the place, first with comments, then emails, linking us or stealing our content, or even reaching us on the phone. Some may just knock on our door here and there and follow quietly beside us. But they all want in.
My question though, even if we didn’t invite them or encourage them, and we don’t add them back, are they really outside our social network? I’d contend that they are in our network, want them or no. Oh, you and I may not engaged them, but they’re still there. We can ignore them even, but we still notice them. Our network notices them as well. Heck, the blogosphere will notice them too.
What should we do then? I say, other than the spammers and the really odd ones, why not cultivate them to become real contributing members of your inner circle? They are already part of your life, why not make them a better part of your life. Speak to them about the type of folks you like to socialize with, the type of people you want to do business with, and the ones you want to create art with. Don’t give out your home address or anything but help them understand where your heart lives. Let them know how they can be part of your success in work, play, and creation. One can never have too much support.
And the rest, the ones you can’t stomach, block the ones you can, and give little or no press to the rest. Don’t blow your energy over them.
Hopefully I’ve given you something to think about, and helped you realize that even folks on the edge of your life are in your networks, sometimes even unintentionally. Why not cultivate them to help move your life along?
Who are you neglecting on the edges?