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Will social media make us all screen-bound nerds?

September 3, 2013

People often complain that social media diminishes human contact and will, one day, turn us all into recluses, trapped in front of a computer screen. I have never bought into this depressing, slightly Orwellian view as it seems most frequently to come from people who do not use social media or, if they do, do not fully understand its potential.

The truth is quite the opposite.

Right from the infancy of social networking I have found it to be a great tool for fostering face-to-face interaction beyond the limiting medium of the computer screen. I have rekindled old friendships, found useful business contacts and gained introductions to local and national networks that I would probably never have discovered otherwise.

I come from a generation that was raised in a world where online networks were little more than a science fiction pipe dream. It was all too easy to lose contact with people as you moved from school, to university and into the world of work, something today’s young people often find difficult to understand. Through Friends Reunited initially and now with Facebook, I have found people I regretted losing touch with and thought I might never find. Many of these online reconnections have produced some memorable meetings over the last few years, usually involving not a little alcohol and plenty of reminiscing.

In my business life, Twitter and LinkedIn have produced a wealth of virtual connections that go far beyond the old, ‘real’ networks that I was in. On many occasions I have found myself sharing a cup of coffee with one of these new virtual connections as we realised our common interests went well beyond what 140 characters can embrace.

People are social beings and online networking can only satisfy so much of that need. Don’t let anyone tell you that the big social networkers are some sort of nerd, a breed apart that doesn’t value human contact because that simply isn’t true.

I’ll give you one more example that illustrates my point.

In Brentwood, where I live, there is a very active Twitter community. Local politicians, small businesses, the local media and arts groups in particular have realised the value of Twitter in helping connect with people in a small town like Brentwood. Out of this virtual network has grown a face-to-face monthly Brentwood Tweet-Up at which a healthy cross-section of the Brentwood Twitterati meet for a drink and a chat. This social gathering has blossomed so much that there is now an annual Brentwood Twitter awards night. Brentwood isn’t alone in finding that virtual networks can grow into something much more tangible and mutually beneficial.

If you are from Brentwood and want to see what a virtual network looks like in the flesh why not pop in to one of the monthly Brentwood Tweet-ups at the Hutton Junction from 7pm to 9pm? There won’t be a nerd in sight.

From → Social Media

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