Social Media – A Blessing and A Curse

I attended the monthly IFP meeting in London last night and the presentation  was about the importance of building strong relationships with stakeholders within your business – clients, staff members and business associates. The speaker did a  good job pointing out the need for ‘eye-to-eye’ conversations rather than letting technology – social medial, emails etc –  get in the way.

The ensuring debate was an interesting one. I got the feeling that some people in the audience felt that technology is damaging our relationships. These days, everyone is on their mobiles, texting, tweeting and ‘facebooking’ rather than actually talking. Hold up your hands if you’ve never emailed a colleague sitting right next to you or texted (tested?) your partner who is in the kitchen downstairs to bring you a cup of coffee. Yeah…. I have. Remember the day when people in the same house used to talk to each other rather than instant messaging?

This is interesting because, at the same meeting last month and increasingly when I meet people in the financial planning community, people walked up to me and the phrase  ‘you’re that guy on Twitter’ or ‘I read your blog about heaven-knows-what’ or’ saw you hangout with so-so and so’  comes up a lot. And next I know, we are chatting away about stuff, usually them, their businesses, etc.  For someone like  me who is not great at small talk, technology is my saving grace. Meeting people for the first time, I find it difficult to know what to say – you know all the breaking the ice stuff. Once I overcome that initial obstacle, I’m quite happy to chat away until thy kingdom come or my Mrs calls.

I cringe at the suggestion that social media is taking over the world (hasn’t it already?) and will replace the good old face-to-face interaction as the primary means of networking and interaction.  I don”t think it will. Thankfully, Google Nose is still a pipe dream. You can’t have dinner or grab a drink  on Twitter, LinkedIn or G+.

I also think the assumption that because we are spending more time on our mobile devices, that somehow we aren’t building strong relationships is a little thin. In fact, technology like Facetime, G+ Hangouts etc were built with that goal in mind. The fact is, technology – social media, actually enables us to build deeper relationship in the way you could never have  imagined few years ago. You’ll be surprised the amount of information people share in 140 characters – stuff about their children and spouses, marriage, separation, bereavements, illnesses, photos and videos of their holiday and…. off-course  what they had for breakfast!And on those ‘rare’ occasions when we actually meet people interact online in the flesh, we feel like we know each other really well.