Facebook Friends or Friends IRL?

In today’s digital age, where we have access to friends, family and acquaintances through many social media outlets, I am becoming a little concerned about the loss of face-to-face interactions and how all the technology is impacting personal and professional relationships. We just wrapped a successful media and analyst tour with a client last month, and it got me thinking about the value of those in-person conversations.

Sure, social media has the ability to put people in touch with thought leaders, industry experts and friends instantaneously, regardless of where they are in the world.  At the same time, online connections don't deliver the same content-richness that you get in person; and I'd therefore argue that you can't rely on virtual relationships alone.  A constant stream of 140 characters is no replacement for a personal interaction. 

In fact, according to a recent survey conducted by Brightkite and GfK Technology, nearly 90 percent of U.S. adults prefer dealing with people face-to-face  rather than online. A recent article in USA Today, “Many adults say they're not sold on social networks” lists other statistics that back up the claim.  Although social-networks are generating a lot of buzz, good old-fashioned, non-digital, face-to-face conversations aren't out of vogue just yet.

The key to interacting in the internet age?  Striking a balance between real, human interactions and their technological counterparts.  How do you use social media and your online network to augment in-person interactions?  Most of the PR pros in our office are actively networking online - constantly engaging their peers and colleagues and exchanging ideas with a network that spans borders.  Many of us find that social media sites have given us access to experts and new friends that we wouldn’t have met in our offline lives.

Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. are all great ways to "meet" the right people and build a relationship.  Another reason we all love social media is its ability to support and build our offline networks.  We attend "Tweetups" and "Twestivals," for example, to meet Twitter followers in an atmosphere that goes beyond 140 characters.  To read more about this concept visit the blog post, “Tweetups (and other tweety meetings) — a primer.”

I believe social media sites and online networking create (or increase) the desire for face-to-face meetings, rather than making us more reclusive.  Whether it’s someone you’ve been following on Twitter, or a reporter or blogger you’ve been engaging online, you likely want to meet them face-to-face to continue the conversation. According to my colleague @gbender26, “social media makes me want to meet in person more. I want to be sure you're not a 1" by 1" thumbnail of a person in real life.” 

I agree with her, do you?

- Contributed by Chantal LeBoulch.  Follow her @cleboulch

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