Social Media: How Much is Too Much?

Social Times is one of those cool new social media blogs that just happens to be in Washington, D.C. It is a joint venture by Nick O’Neill and is backed by other prominent goons from the DC market, Frank Gruber and Jesse Thomas. All friends of mine, all respectable bloggers that are each doing great things individually.

One of the writers at Social Times, Anthony Lafauce, wrote an article last week “Social Media… I think we need some time apart“. It was particularly a good article, not because of the literal content of the article, which described his time away at SXSW as a “liberating” time free of Facebook, Twitter and other socnets. Instead, the real meat of this article was in the fact that he highlighted a systemic problem in our internet culture.

I don’t want to sound like an old stodge (cue the jokes about, “Back in my day…”), but society has increasingly lost focus of what is truly valuable – that is the personal and human contact that is not afforded by social media. Yes, increasingly we are aware of the life streams of others, friends or followers. Yes, we like to grab beers and hamburgers while chatting over some new juicy bit of gossip. But we’ve lost, in most cases, the sincerest form of friendship and collaboration that there could ever be. Deep, lasting personal relationships with others where empathetic exchange of laughs and ideas transcend the superficial relationships that social media is so adept at creating.

Over at East Coast Blogging, Jimmy Gardner has taken off on this idea about cementing the community. I point you to a telling comment by my friend Keith Casey where he says something that is the antithesis of what social media mavens try to create with wildfire “friends and followers”:

People who want to get a piece of that are likely to jump in. But what about the opportunity to meet/help complete strangers? To be honest, my friends and allies *always* come first.

So, I concur with Anthony. The ability to shut it all down is great. The ability to connect in the real world and develop strong and solid relationships that will and do transcend into business, collaboration and partnerships is a more compelling effect.

Think on it.

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Aaron Brazell

Aaron Brazell is a Baltimore, MD-based WordPress developer, a co-founder at WP Engine, WordPress core contributor and author. He wrote the book WordPress Bible and has been publishing on the web since 2000. You can follow him on Twitter, on his personal blog and view his photography at The Aperture Filter.

9 thoughts on “Social Media: How Much is Too Much?”

  1. I’m happy to say I totally agree, and despite being a nethead, and Community Marketing Manager for a number of online products, I’m always trying to encourage everyone involved to organise real world events, meets and interaction.

    The most valuable people I know online are mainly those who I’ve met in real life at least once…whether before or after we met online.

  2. Aaron,

    Great post, totally agree. I love your last statement. The connections I have made with you and all the others has been so rewarding for me. I love getting together with the like minded people and talk.
    I have made more connections offline from my online dealings recently than I have made my entire life with the local community.

    Keep up the great work.

    jimmy

  3. I’ve noticed that the main people that I twitter with/to are the people that I have real world relationships with *or* those that close friends have real world relationships with. I follow lots of people, but the only people on my IM notification are DCians, PHP’ers, or a handful of business contacts that I have from here and there. Those are the people with the thoughts and opinions that I generally care about. And occasionally, I find new and other people that I don’t know and happen to care about what they think and are doing… but that’s just a nice benefit. :)

    On another note, I find it creepy that people find me insightful. Before you know it, they’ll expect me to be in charge of stuff and set agendas and junk. ;)

  4. Ya, its funny, I’ve built several social nets but I don’t really use any of them in any meaningful way to communicate with friends. Also concur with some of the guys above that the online contacts that matter most are the ones you’ve met in person.

  5. Hey Aaron – I agree, too. The strongest relationships are those you can make “real” by meeting F2F – sxsw being a great example. I’ve always looked at social media as a kind of “relationship prep” stage – we know each other a little, so that when we finally do meet, we don’t have to worry about all that awkward getting-to-know-one-another stuff – we can just jump right in to hanging out.

    Awesome to meet you last week!

  6. Great assessment of the impersonality of social media and the desire to take a break from it once in a while. I DO sometimes feel like “an old stodge” and I’m not ashamed to say it. I’ve been exposed to more Web 2.0 and social networking than ever before because of a grad school class I’m taking about the subject. Guess what? For all the fun that can be had on Facebook, etc., I still prefer some face to face with people!

  7. I find myself a bit split by this one. Yes, we need to “connect in the real world and develop strong and solid relationships that will and do transcend into business”, but I’ve also found that it becomes a ‘chicken and the egg’ situation – I’ve met lots of people online that I would never have met offline, and subsequently met them offline to build offline projects, but these projects often require the input of online contacts.

    We all need to develop lasting personal relationship both online and offline, but we also need to be open to the idea of developing new relationships that may turn into lasting ones, where ever we meet these people.

  8. For me, it’s always about the actual people I get to meet. I think by nature I’m a sort of people person. The convenience of social media affords us the opportunities to stay more “in touch”, however I think our personalities add the finishing touch when we feel the need to actually INTERACT in person.

    If you already like hanging out with friends/people outside of the computer world, I think you’re more likely to have a good balance. Just starting to come out to DC social media events and meeting all you cool people has definitely helped me to realize the importance of the online/offline interaction.

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