or maybe it isn’t


It’s been almost a year since I wrote about how email is a dead medium (for me, anyway) and that we were all in a now-or-never moment to either embrace the social movement or forever be lagging behind. Months later, I’ve been noticing something with my own patterns of staying connected that almost worries me.

A friend of mine recently updated his Facebook status to ask if anyone was going to hire him, and I realized that I had no idea what he was up to. I knew that he was finishing up his second year of public policy field work in Niger, but we really hadn’t kept in touch. We’d both fallen out of email communication, blog postings became more and more sporadic, and attempts at communicating in 140-character bursts or through status updates weren’t quite cutting it.

As I’m trying to finish mapping out a curriculum for an online social media course for the upcoming school year, I’ve been thinking about how to sustain connections, to maintain ongoing conversations of substance. It’s become obvious that you need to stay with it. Twitter doesn’t become all that useful until you build a network of people to follow, start posting on your own, and start dialoguing within your network. Facebook isn’t much fun without any friends to keep track of. Even blogging can become somewhat of an isolating experience without a small collection of regular readers and commenters.

I’ll admit that I should probably start writing that lengthy email to my friend to get caught up with the last year or so, just to make sure that we actually connect.

3 thoughts on “or maybe it isn’t

  1. It may also be useful to consider the different types of networks people maintain.

    The analogy I draw is on the types of networks we’re taught in business school.

    Affiliate Network – This type of personal network is characterized by a close-knit group of people that form a tight core group where information is passed within the group readily. From a business perspective, this network is helpful for someone who needs a strong core support (e.g. useful for someone who often confers with friends, or builds projects repeatedly with similar people).

    Efficiency Network – This type of personal network is characterized by far flung contacts, and therefore less intimate contacts. This type of network is useful for someone in the creative field because it opens up streams of ideas from a diverse background (and is also good for job hunting since you’re hearing from lots of different people in different areas vs. the Affiliation Network where you tend to hear about and compete for the same jobs and the people in your immediate network). This type of network is also good for folks like venture capitalists who want to have deep and varied connections that much go through the VC guy to meet each other.

    While note exactly the same, these models can be extrapolated into the different ways people manage their social networks — some maintain a few tight friends, others like to have a huge number of friends on Facebook, many of who they have almost no contact with.

    I’d also suggest that people will develop new concepts for what it means to “stay in touch” much like they did with the advent of email.

    By the way, if part of your goal is to teach your student technology literacy, you may find it interesting that my ad agency now had a (small) department who’s entire charge is marketing through social media.

  2. i think you and are a pretty good case in point. we rarely see each other and a couple of months ago i wasn’t even sure what kind of grad school you were in, but we’re definitely in a couple of “networks” together.

    either way, don’t think i’m not reaching into one of those networks right now — got anyone that i can get in touch with at your agency who’d be willing to talk about their use of social media? that’s definitely a goal of the course.

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