Where Social Networking Falls Short!

Image created by Mervik Haums

Networking, we’re all told if its done right, we’ll land that dream job we’ve always wanted, we’ll realize our entrepreneurial dreams, and its somehow the path to building better relationships with others, both online and off. But after years of working to grow a media empire on the backs of the world’s largest social platforms, I’ve come to the realization there truly lays a stark difference between the ways we network with others and build relationships online, and the ways in which we network and build relationships with people in the physical world. I’ve also realized there’s often positive and negative consequences that can be associated with the way we make use of the web as a communication tool, vs. our more traditional means of communication in a face to face manner.

For starters, looking back now, I realize the achievements I saw from my efforts to communicate with others on the web hardly compared to the opportunities I was afforded from the relationships I built with others offline (although, this wasn’t always the case. Just more often than not).

I’ve learned over time that the way we connect with others in the digital realm is often indirect in many ways, and it often feels as if we’re talking through a can and string, rather than person to person. It’s what I’d prefer to call the “digital disconnect”, where communication among humans becomes broken in many ways. There’s truly a difference between conversating in person, and conversating over a digital device.

Here I’d like to share my experience over the last 4 years of networking with more people than I could ever count online, what I’ve learned from that experience, and what the pros and cons were to help you make better educated decisions as to how you should approach the process of networking yourself. I’d also love to hear of your experiences, and at the end of the article do feel free to share them with me.

Networking Often Leads to Chance Encounters & New Relationships:

Have you ever met someone who had such a huge impact on you that it literally changed the course of your life forever, opened the doors to opportunity, and ultimately helped define who you are today? I can credit the chance encounters I experienced among a small handful of people both on the web, and outside of it, for changing my life in incredibly profound ways.

In 2001, I was the laid off worker with no education stuck facing the agonizing reality of the poverty that engulfed me, and by the end of 2004 I was relieved of my hardships entirely, thanks to a relationship I built with one person.

In 2005 I was the kid in the coffee shop who hated computers, and by 2007 I was in college for information systems. How ironic. Again, it was all in thanks to the incredible impact one person exerted upon me. Who would have thought a 5 minute conversation over a cup of coffee would’ve changed my life forever.

In 2013 I was the guy who understood the technology that drives the web, but didn’t understand the psychological aspects of human behavior that define its purpose. But later I learned from a master of marketing (co-founder of Strategic Social Networking Joseph Solares) how to grab the attention of humans and keep it. And yet again, the impact of a single person would continue to re-define who I am and where I was headed in life.

These were just 3 chance encounters, but they had a hugely profound impact on the course of my life, helped define who I am today, and very much continue to influence my thoughts of tomorrow. I can credit those same people with instilling a level of self-confidence in myself I once never had, for allowing me to realize I could do more with my life, and that the barriers we experience in life are only the result of the boundaries we set for ourselves.

In fact, those relationships were so life changing for me, that it literally meant the difference of rising out of poverty, getting educated, achieving many feats, and being among the lucky few to not have to worry about financial insecurity for more than the greater part of an entire decade.

But there’s something about those I networked with offline that often, but not always, brought about more meaningful relationships than those I built online. But what was it?

While I could ponder for eternity over why those real world relationships are more meaningful than the virtual ones I experienced on the web, I’ve realized now why their impact was so great.

The fact is, communicating with people in real life showcases our personalities in ways that cannot be observed through a digital lens. There lays a huge difference between communicating through text over a social platform, and communicating face to face in true reality. As the old saying goes, “Seeing is Believing!”

I’ve also realized that despite millions of people reading my articles over the years, and making use of the many media outlets I’ve grown in mass across the social web, none of those people have afforded me any sort of potential opportunity for much of anything.

Unfortunately, this is where networking on the web falls short! I’ve realized now I have no real direct relationship to the majority of those who make use of my many creations, those millions who’ve read my stories over the years, and even many of those I actually communicate with on the web today.

Even now, if I were to go and review those who follow me across my social profiles, many of these individuals reside in prominent positions of power, some are corporate executives, others prominent public figures, but again, they afford me no opportunity, and they have about zero impact on my real world life. It’s a harsh reality, but I have no real relationship to these people, other than the fact they read my articles or follow me for some unknown reason.

I’ve also realized that even the bulk of those I regularly communicate with across social media I hardly know anything about. In some cases I could communicate with a single individual for months, but my full understanding of who they really are remains a partial mystery.

Today, I run one of the world’s largest social networking organizations on the web, yet I’m hardly social in real life outside of the web, and I’m paying the consequences for it now.

“Opportunities arise out of the relationships we build!” That’s the mission statement from Strategic Social Networking, the social organization I built to a following of close to 150,000 members today. While it’s a statement I will always stand by, what it doesn’t do is stress the importance of not just building relationships, but ones that are truly meaningful; and unfortunately, when it comes to building relationships on the web, there’s the potential road blocks and pitfalls I noted above.

Despite my many successes, in more recent times I find myself back in the pits of financial failure once again, and I’ve realized now that my years of attempting to communicate with millions of people have left me emotionally drained and socially withdrawn.

Today, I’m often so physically drained after a 12 to 16 hour work day of communicating with people on the web, I haven’t an ounce of energy left in my body to so much as speak a word in public. It honestly hurts to try and even speak so much as a single word.

While I appear socially active to the virtual world we call the internet, the harsh reality is that I’ve become somewhat of an introvert in real life and more socially withdrawn from society than anything. In fact, there’s a mall across the street from my home, and its probably been over 4 years since I’ve stepped foot through its doors. When I step outside my home, my neighbors often ask, “Where have you’ve been?”

Because I rarely ever step foot in public, those truly meaningful real life chance encounters that once afforded me incredible opportunities in life have since all but evaporated over time.

The point is, networking online is not a replacement for networking in the real world. I’ve also realized that none of us are in this world alone, and the likelihood of our success is heavily interdependent on the relationships we build with others. Even the most successful of individuals got where they are partially as the result of the support they received from others.

My ability to live for a decade among the nation’s lucky 1%, to become college educated, and even to build a media empire on the web, are all the result of support I received from others, and that support was the byproduct of the relationships I built with others.

I’ve also realized that networking in real life tends to be a lot more meaningful than networking online, and its because of the nature in which we communicate physically in the real world vs. the way we communicate within the virtual social spaces of the web. In real life, your personality can shine through, but on the web, it lays dormant behind a digital screen that acts more like a medium that filters out the most meaningful points of communication, which again, hides who we really are.

Likewise, the opportunities that arise from the relationships we’ve previously built can evaporate in second’s time (that business you worked for disappears and so does that awesome job, your wealthy friend who showered you with unending cash blew all the money on hookers and casinos (Ok, so I helped blow some of the money at casinos :P) and there’s nothing left, the industry you worked in no longer needs you and your education and experience become obsolete, your health changes and so does your life, a family member runs your family business into the ground).

I’ve had all these things happen to me, and I guess the good, the bad, and otherwise, its all just comes down to fate.

All being said, while networking online can be a wonderful thing, we mustn’t lose sight of the true reality that exists around us either. I’ve also learned the hard way that networking online will never be a viable replacement for networking in person. While I can’t speak for the rest of the world, I can tell you from my honest experience that the most meaningful of relationships are rarely ever created on the web. Our ability to communicate in the digital spaces of the web is truly a miraculous thing, but it also presents barriers in our abilities to interact with others (That Digital Disconnect), and it also has the tendency to hide our personalities and who we truly are from the world to see.

Likewise, while my past networking and relationship building efforts that once afforded me a grand life have simply evaporated over time, I’ve also come to realize I can always build new relationships and open the doors to new opportunities as a result. I guess it’s just a matter of stepping away from this pseudo-reality we call the internet.

At present, I’ve finally awoken from my digital coma and realized I spent years confining myself to a virtual prison, and I’m ready once again to embrace the reality that lays beyond the virtual confines of the world-wide-web, where real meaningful relationships that turn into real opportunity truly exist.

Again, if you have a networking story you’d like to share, I’m all ears, and I’d love to hear it! Many thanks for reading!

Written and published by Daniel Imbellino — Co-Founder of Strategic Social Networking and pctechauthority.com. Many thanks for reading. Be sure to check out Strategic Social Networking Community on Google+ to connect with tens of thousands of IT professionals and learn effective strategies to grow your social presence online. You’re also welcome to follow Strategic’s brand page on G+ for the latest social media and IT industry news.