12:58 PM

Social Networking: Bringing Back Old School

Little did I know as I crushed my thumb in the wooden slats of the garage door (who knew it could move so fast!? ) that this moment would shift my perspective on Social networking.

I’m a knowledge worker (a fancy term for someone who works on a computer all day) and I rely on my computer and Blackberry to do my job. With my right hand firmly immobilized in a brace, I faced a significant limitation: the keyboard was impossible. How was I going to type, or have any semblance of productivity, with one hand?

As my email inbox climbed steadily, instant messages popped up and TweetDeck taunted me with endless Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn updates, I wondered when had we become so dependent – addicted -to these social programs that were meant to be enablers, not the ‘fix’?

I was socially cut-off and this intervention was staged by a most unusual suspect - my keyboard. I didn’t realize the power this seemingly innocuous input device had over us knowledge workers: it is our lifeline. What options did I have without it? It was an epiphany moment of Jerry Maguire proportions when an instant message suddenly appeared. It came from the person in the office next door.

I took a deep breath.
I got up and walked over to the office next to me.
That’s when the unthinkable happened.

We talked.
.....As in face-to-face.
It was just like instant messaging: in real-time.
We collaborated and communicated without a 140-character limitation.
The best part: it didn’t require a keyboard. It was ‘old school’ social networking.

I have to ask: is social networking making us socially lazy? Have we lost perspective of what “social” is - human-to-human interaction? Are we becoming less social as we increasingly – and so readily, adopt social tools that replace human-to-human interaction? I’m not saying that social media and networking don’t have their place and benefits, but it appears we’ve lost our way when we instant message the person at workstation 10 feet away. What about those war and peace emails with the thread of painstakingly detailed replies? How many of these could have more efficiently and effectively handled in person, or over the phone?

Social computing is just that – it is computing. People are not computers. And computers are not social. People are social. And while the almighty keyboard is our conduit that links these two worlds, let’s not forget that the keyboard is a just an input device and enabler.

And while it took crushing my thumb in a garage door to realize the painfully obvious, sometimes we all need a little reminder to keep it real...and to bring it back old school style.