Archive for October 17th, 2012

Perils of Social Networking October 17th, 2012

Vinod Kumar

If content is king, then conversion is queen – John Munsell, CEO of Bizzuka

The concept of Social networking has been used in an abusive manner these days. We hardly get to understand, appreciate and efficiently use the same in our day-to-day life. Strange is this generation where we mean Social Networking synonymous to the online involvement via our favorite sites of Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, G+ etc. But the fundamental rules of social networking is understanding the social structure from which this got evolved. Under the Web 2.0 website categorization, if the user is able to interact with others and create content that can change based on user then that is a form of social networking. In this categorization, even the blogs, WIKIs that we write can be interesting social networking site in some way.

There are pros and cons in this so called Social Networking and in this blog let me take a stab at demystifying some of the problems of such sites. This is super-critical because I am sure the next generation will become a victim of these pitfalls.

It’s all about people. It’s about networking and being nice to people and not burning any bridges – Mike Davidson

How we use social sites?

There are obviously two schools of thought when it comes to social networking. This divide among people is what feeds information into the online avatars. There are people who use the sites for personal purposes only and target to share their baby pictures to keep in touch with the friends and families. This is a great use of sites like Facebook. There are another set of people who use this for professional reasons only and have a vast ocean of people to interact with. This is also another usecase, unfortunately both these styles of interaction rubbing onto each other is where the problem starts.

Family Oriented

This is one set of group that I have seen grown in large numbers. There are a number of people who have their jobs away from their native (spanning across continents) and they see that Facebook has been a great way to keep in touch with family and share their wonderful moments. These days we do see housewives, great-grand mothers all able to see their grand kids in the comfort of their home. Not to forget the advent of smartphones, now sharing with loved ones is just a click away. With these intentions, this group is averse to any professional marketing one might do. I see a merit here in this model and that is the human factor !!!

Focus on how to be social, not on how to do social – Jay Baer, Convince & Convert

Professionally Oriented

This is the second breed of people that we will see filled with marketing and business nerds who want to use the connects into market shares and using social to promote and break the traditional rules of market. The presence of such people are growing leaps & bounds and are comparable comparable to any corporate in the real world. These folks are strictly behind the promotions they can generate via the channel and are slowly getting away from the conventional billboards they were used to. Though there are this group, they are also cognizant of the fact that too much of anything is also not going to gain any market share or accelerate any sales.

Wikis and social networking are just tools. – Jimmy Wales

Nowhere to go – I am stuck in middle

Let us also take a moment to realize that there are obviously people who walk the think line of family and professionalism on the same social site. These are people who have an identity and yet want to add the human element just like anyone else out there. In this state, many fail to transition gracefully from personal life to professional life and vice-versa when handling the social sites.

This is not a situation anyone wants to be in. Don’t try to write about professional content in the first post and follow up with a post at a party last night. This surely confuses people keeping this identities separate can also help. I have seen some have just a profile for connecting with family separate from the other list.

An acquaintance who you made as a friend can see this in two forms: First feeling can be “I am getting spammed by all these personal stuff when I am here to connect professionally” or it can be “I maybe stepping onto the personal space of an individual who I don’t quite care”. Both these behaviors are common and how many times do we see people not want to see ALL posts from a single person but selective based on the interest.

For example, last thing I would want to share with my parents and grandparents is about some Garbage Collector article which they have no interest on and they have a different definition meaning for that :).

Impact of Social Networking

I do have accounts in various networking sites and have my own views on some on reading and writing my own updates. I enjoy doing them but let me tell you that all these so-called social networking are not creating a positive impact on our lives but have a negative influence that we forget to recognize. Let me bring some of the perspectives in this blog post next:


The concept of friends have changed in the past 15-20 years. Friendship used to be really simple and we recognized that friendship to someone we knew, hung around with and liked the company they gave us – that was simple friendship. That description of people are still one of my dearest friends and I cherish their company even today. Even though there are many who live miles apart, chat or talk once in a while – the definition of friendship will never change with them.

Now talking about how friendship is defined in social sites, I personally feel this has abused word and lost its sanity. Having several thousands of friends or followers doesn’t really mean anything in my opinion. I just hope the next generation does not get clouded by these sites and forgets the meaning of friendship, relationships and casual acquaintances.

For example, heights of getting social: Husband and Wife greeting each other on their anniversary day over Facebook. How extreme can you become?

Life no more fun

With all these sharing from others, there are sections of people who suddenly find themselves wondering why their life isn’t so much of fun. This social addiction can set you back and into a depressing mood as you question why you are still stuck where you are. Don’t buckle into this social depression as I call it.

For example, someone puts up a status of “I am screwed”. And now there are close to 100+ comments or tweets around that. Now if you are having such conversations you are surely screwed at work – I can guarantee you that !!

Generally, social networking sites can be hugely promising and beneficial in opening new friendships and vistas and knowledge of the world, but they are also fraught with peril, when young people are reckless or headless – Richard Blumenthal

Comment or confront?

Earlier I wrote a post asking “Are you the same person online?” I have seen this is fundamental where people are lesser sensitive and comfortable to comment on your post rather than walk over the corridor to pass a comment. How many times do you feel comfortable in complimenting someone in-person rather easier to just say good luck over as comments. Sometimes the odd insensitive comments are also reasons for people fighting and blocking others.

Friends reduced to likes

Social sites are fundamentally about you. What you like, what you share, what are your interests and what are you doing. For people who are shy in sharing this are unlikely to be active on Facebook or twitter. They are a miserable failure and above all are hardly interacted. In my opinion those who try to update their status once in a bluemoon are miserable failure for me. It is better for them to deactivate their account :).

This self-centered attention seeking perspective is something the younger generation relishes like anything. It is good and bad in my opinion. I know many who sometimes call to ask if we have seen their photographs and why we didn’t like them. This gives social pressure and sometimes rejections to why am I forced under the like banner. Social sites are better served if used for conversation and sharing unique ideas, not measured on the number of likes someone gets. I hope people realize this.

Privacy is dead, and social media hold the smoking gun.” – Pete Cashmore, Mashable CEO

Reduced Attention span

Since the advent of mobile phone our dependency on remembering our home phone numbers have gone and I know many struggle too. In the same manner, after the internet era people have resorted to search engines to get what they want. Interestingly enough this has also made our mind to flirt all over the place. Just remember the last time you wanted to learn something over the internet and you somehow drifted to 10 other sites and ultimately forgot what you were searching for? Did this happen to you?

Now from the social sites perspective, it is a stream of information overload and it switches context almost every other post and we are the main victim of this behavior. It is because of this reason why twitter or Facebook have given a limit of 140 or 250 characters. It surely is a testimony that we have lost this game and the battle of the minds.

For example, when was the last time you had gone to a dinner with family & friends and invariably browsing or checking your status / mails at the dinner table? If you have made time for them, it is worth taking that extra attention for them. Better, switch off your phones if you can. Smart phones are surely making us dumb not smarter.

You can run but not hide

This is really a chicken-and-egg situation. Sometimes when you mix out both personal and professional life in one place, there are situations you want to hide away from work yet want to share all this with your loved ones. In this situation, there are problems and you tend to not be yourself because you become conscious of where and what you are doing.

For example, have read a number of articles where Facebook check-in has lead to divorces and at times to even people taking their life away. This social obsession and not handling it proper has its big disadvantage.

Don’t say anything online that you wouldn’t want plastered on a billboard with your face on it – Erin Bury, Sprouter community manager

Hampers Productivity

This is completely a no-brainer in my opinion. I did make a Picture Post on this very topic earlier this week. With reduced attention span it is really hard to stay focused and be on track with all the social media updates and notifications.

I am not saying these social sites are the only attention seekers but there are the Angry birds and worst the addicts of farmville that are a killer and great distractions to productivity.


This comes from a old school of thought and still holds good. Rumors spread like wild fire and social sites are no exception to this. On the contrary, it is also a great way to pass-on information but many times we have seen people just share information which are not properly researched and hence creating a ripple effect.

If you’re looking for the next big thing, and you’re looking where everyone else is, you’re looking in the wrong place Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks

Career Limiting :)

I have known people have two different life – one as they are with family& friends and other when they are at work. I have seen these days that organization’s HR ping and check your social sites to check what type of person you are before actually taking the plunge. LinkedIn is a great start but be cognizant of what you express over your Facebook and Twitter in public. It can surely become a career limiting move for the future. I do understand you have visibility settings, privacy etc but doing the right things is better.

Not as bad as it looks

Though I am highlighting a number of shortcomings, the situation doesn’t need to be this alarming. My intentions were to give you a glimpse of things we might keep in mind for the future.

Social sites do have some positive effects on our daily lives too. It needs to be seen as a new way to communicate with people we cannot meet because of distance. Another neat thing about this is the ability to interact with each other and share ideas. Such interactions can be fun and a great way to learn from others in a casual manner.

Social Networking that matters is helping people archive their goals. Doing it reliably and repeatability so that over time people have an interest in helping you achieve your goals – Seth Godin, Seth’s Blog

Social networking is not limited to casual interactions but for people concerned about their career this can be a serious business. The more popularity you get in the corporate social circles, you are building a professional brand and making contact for a future move.

Use social sites with tact and build a good reputation for yourself. You need to have your own identity, being yourself helps and most importantly share your views and just not parrot not what others are saying.

Look at the social sites to connect with people than just building social interactions. Social networking is not “Real social” so don’t try to over do. Like, if it is your best friends B’day – pick the phone and wish him/her personally. This is can be really go a long way and make the other persons day. That would truly becoming social :).

Final thoughts

As I sign off bringing my views of social networking, I am not advocating against it. I am trying to bring the elements that can make us non-social via these sites. Evaluate your strategy of being yourself in social sites, what you do, how you interact, what you share, what you say etc. Don’t become Facebook or Twitter depressed. There is also life outside of it. Thanks for reading this far, would love to hear from you too.

Neither privacy nor publicity is dead, but technology will continue to make a mess of both Danah Boyd, fellow at Harvard University

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