In the New York Times recently there was an article titled, My Dinner With Clay Shirky, and What I Learned About Friendship which I highly recommend. The piece was essentially about an authors dinner experience with noted writer, speaker, and internet ethnographer Clay Shirky. If you don’t know who Clay Shirky is, go to Amazon and read some excerpts from his two books Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organization and Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age.
The gist of the NY Times piece was that if we’re not careful we could spend so much time interacting with people on the Web that we could become a little socially deficient. Ironically, this week we held a social media tweetchat hosted by Jamie Sandford on how one cultivates relationships in a social world. The parallels were neat and not lost on me. On the one hand we had Shirky wanting us to take it offline and on the other, we had a group of people in a tweetchat talking about how to make online connections stronger with the eventuality that we do take them offline.
Complete and utter online social immersion can make us feel like we are so busy with our connections that don’t have time for the offline world. Just as quickly however, if we don’t take the time to balance the two or at least make the attempt to deepen our online relationships we can easily feel the false euphoric high of quantity give us the semblance of relationships. Yet the reality is the payoff rests in face to face interactions. We spend so much time cultivating our numbers on various social platforms that we begin to think we have “a lot” of “friends”.
Our manufactured social world allows to think we’re popular until we step out from behind the machine. The point? Even in a connected world, we have to make the effort to cultivate a virtual relationship into something greater than the sum total of the networks that we are part of.