The other day while shopping at my local grocery store, I looked up from my list and made eye contact with the woman coming toward me. We both made that face – you know the one where you realize you’re supposed to know that person, and you can’t remember her name. Then, our light bulbs almost visibly lit up above our heads, and we realized we were high school classmates and Facebook friends. We had a robust relationship on Facebook, sharing mutual friends and seeing posts from each other, but in the offline world, we had no relationship. I realized then that we had entered an entirely new world of relationship building.
Social media is your relationship friend
In January of this year, Pew Center research released an in-depth reporton relationships in a digital age. They wanted to evaluate the impact on relationships that social media was having on our relationships. They concluded that “… research is showing that the internet is not destroying relationships or causing people to be anti-social. To the contrary, the internet is enabling people to maintain existing ties, often to strengthen them, and at times to forge new relationships.”
What this means is we are in an “AND” environment. I think Paul Tredwell, a leading communications consultant, explained it well in a recent blog post: “It has been said that we live in a world of ‘and’. We no longer want to choose A or B, we want both. We want it all, now. Digital innovation has contributed massively to this belief in the endless possibility and changed for all time how we manage our relationships, private, public and professional.”
We are now building relationships not just offline (real) but also online (virtual). We maintain all our usual ways of building relationships with family, friends, colleagues, acquaintances, all the humans in our lives. And, now in a digital age, we also have to maintain relationships with them and others online. Whether it is maintaining a website to share company information, trading information by email, texting your parents, or promoting your goods and services through social media, you’re maintaining relationships via online.
Strengthen your core
The Pew Center research results are quite extensive, but I found one result particularly interesting as we try to balance all of this relationship building: with our core relationships, we still relied on traditional (pre-internet) means of communicating – a phone call and an in-person visit. (Core ties are the people with whom you have very close relationships — you discuss important matters with them and seek their help.) In fact, the study found that Americans, on average, are in at least weekly in-person contact with a median of 5 core ties and four significant ties. We are investing valuable time building relationships, nurturing them, both in person and through digital connections.
Which led me to ask: How can we find the energy to care for all these relationships through all these channels? I think the answer is simple – choose wisely. Don’t fall into the trap of being everywhere because everybody else says so. Don’t convince yourself to be best friends with that friend of a friend just because someone else thinks you have a lot in common. And for goodness sake, don’t keep dating that person who is all wrong for you just because you don’t want to try again to find the right one. Put the energy into finding the right ones, and by that I mean, right people, right social media, right relationships that build you up and energize you. Establish your core connections and keep them active.
Achieving online/offline balance
Sharing the wisdom of Paul Tredwell one more time: “… let’s not allow the momentum of digital communication to replace or even diminish face-to-face or voice-to-voice interaction. In a complex, challenging, relentless business environment, personal contact is more important than ever.”
At iResponze, they focus on online relationships, and like me, they would encourage you to find a balance for your relationships. Never should online lives take us away from offline ones. Let’s never forget the power of a handshake with a colleague, a face-to-face talk with a friend, and a hug from a parent. Without these offline interactions, we are poorer people, no matter how rich our online life becomes. Online communication is just relationship building in the new digital world.
What tips do you have for maintaining strong relationships in a digital age?
Christine Lambert, contributing blogger and fellow social butterfly, is a communications consultant with more than 25 years working in wide variety of communications roles. She spent more than a decade working with hotels and hotel brands to amplify their messages with internal and external customers. iResponze® partners with hotels by responding to online reviews on their behalf. This collaboration allows staff to focus on what they do best – deliver exceptional guest experiences.