For a few months now, I have been pondering the state of social media.
The idea of us having 2,000 connections on LinkedIn, 4,000 or more friends on Facebook, 1,500 followers on Twitter and not to mention Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest and the countless other social media platforms in the future that will make us even more “connected” to the world.
We may feel validated in our world view when we hit 150 likes on a post and 35 shares but have we REALLY shared of ourselves through meaningful, thoughtful exchange?
A Case Study in Converting Online “Friends” to Offline Relationships
We saw evidence of this before, during and after the election. People on both sides metaphorically—perhaps even literally--foaming at the mouth and obsessively posting articles reinforcing their respective points with no real concern with how the other side feels or interprets the information.
An interesting and refreshing thing happened in the aftermath that inspired me to be much more intentional and vigilant in building REAL relationships with my connections online.
I posted an article focused on the race relations aspect of the election and an old high school friend, Michael Evans, reached out and posted a comment. Mind you, this was a guy whom I conversed with maybe twice in my life tops and he responded by saying (in summary):
“One thing I've learned over the years is to never have these discussions through Facebook or text because it leaves way too much to be inferred and miscommunicated. I instead prefer to just talk to someone over the phone. I was hoping and wondering if that's something you'd be interested in, because I'd love to hear more about your perspective on all this.”
Even as someone who considers herself to be emotionally intelligent and a relationship building expert, I was pleasantly floored by his comment.
This brilliant response to a random post exemplifies the highest potential of social media as we know it—to develop authentic relationships that broaden our understanding of the world and ourselves.
3 Simple Steps to Transforming Online Faux Friends to High Value Connections
So what are practical steps we can take to transform many of these artificial connections we have online into positive, personable and powerful relationships that will lead to greater career opportunities, business avenues and personal enlightenment?
1. Be Proactive and Intentional in Your Social Media Usage
So many of us jump on social media without a thought in the world about what connections we want to make and what impact we want to have. Building authentic connections online might be as simple as writing an article about an issue you are passionate about and asking for feedback. It may also include finding an article that will be of great value to members of a group and again, following up with a simple question to solicit input. I emphasize asking for feedback because many communication experts emphasize that we need this “give and take” rhythm of conversation in order to build rapport. Also, being open to input or opposing viewpoints broadens your own horizons and allows you to develop a deeper knowledge of your topic and contributes to your journey of becoming a subject matter expert.
2. Plan Events Offline
This has been one of the most pivotal for me these past few years. As my old high school friend mentioned in his response to my Facebook post, so much gets lost in our text heavy culture. Nuances like facial expression, tone of voice and just the overall energy between two people is compromised in email communications. Besides, like we don’t need a break from our screens anyway? Take some time every now and again to invite someone out for tea or coffee that you find intriguing. You may find that you are able to develop a much more intimate or tighter bond by taking that extra step.
3. Be the Change You Wish To See in Social Media
Of course, this slight variation on the famous Mahatma Ghandi quote is very befitting here. Often times, we speak about social media as if it is this possessed object acting out on its own free will. We often complain about the drastic change in content especially on LinkedIn and beg or demand social media leaders to “fix it.” We often gripe about how people do not respond to our LinkedIn messages when we try reaching out to someone with no common connections but seems interesting to us anyway. To that I ask, have you been the change you want to see? Are you truly open to connecting with others and learning about other people outside of your comfort zone? Are you posting riveting, value-rich content for your followers?
After all, creating world changing, revolutionizing connections starts with YOU!
In conclusion, I would like to end with a question.
What are some simple things you think all of us can do to better or deepen our online relationships?