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Today's Social Media Frenzy: A Dissenting Voice

1.19.2010

We have all been inundated with ways to use the social media to hire, improve our brand, and market. But are we missing something? The Alexander Group's Beth Ehrgott takes a different view.

While the hype of social media keeps populating, I hope that the impact generated from in-person conversations is not forgotten. Nothing takes the place of human contact and discussion, whether it is a formally scheduled meeting with a potential client, a walk down the hall with the boss, or having dinner with the pretty girl in class that you finally had the nerve to ask out!

Cutting edge technology certainly makes available other forms of communication and provides avenues to open doors to the desired audience. Data gathering search engines, information sharing and networking sites are essential tools in today's communications toolkit that can be extremely effective in helping to achieve the ultimate goal: fast access to the target audience. However, winning the business or the pretty girl will never happen
unless there is an opportunity to build a relationship with that individual. The foundation of business and personal transactions starts with earned trust, mutual respect and friendship, all of which are derived from shared experiences where individuals bond.....face time.

Last week, I was in a Manhattan Starbucks and observed the following: business colleagues sitting together, yet all in action with their particular technology of choice, Blackberries or laptops, and kids sitting with friends, all in deep thought as they were texting away. Not a single person was having a conversation with any of the people he/she was sitting with!

How will today's young generations, tomorrow's leaders, learn how to build relationships or even basic conversation skills when much of their time is spent texting messages and updating their Facebook page? The irony is that venues like local coffee shops were created before this social media technology era to be casual meeting places where friends could socialize in person.

I am a mother of two boys, and from the time our two boys could speak, they were taught how to politely answer the phone, take messages, look people in the eye and engage in conversation. They are now grade school and middle school age and I have ample opportunities to observe their interactions with friends. It is shocking to see how many kids truly appear uncomfortable with face to face interaction and struggle with core communication skills. However, they are all technology wizards when it comes to downloading music for their iPODS, playing computer games and of course, texting, Facebooking and Tweeting. Even my fifth grader's teacher encourages the class to follow her on Twitter.

By the time these kids graduate from college, will these generations ever speak on the phone? Will phones still exist? More and more universities are offering on-line classes. Will students and teachers still believe there is a need for in-person discussions?

Technology has helped corporations operate more virtually. Employees working remotely coupled with scaled down travel budgets doesn't facilitate in-person face time with colleagues and/or customers. BIG MISTAKE!!! Building and cultivating relationships is an art and requires practice just like anything else.

Let's all certainly bring our technology toys to the playground but not hang ourselves on the monkey bars by forgetting how to make friends in the sandbox." 

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