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Are You Really My Friend?
January 20, 2011 at 1:56 am #120989
Here’s a thought raised by Malcom Gladwell in the New Yorker: Maybe you and I aren’t such great friends after all. Just because you “friended” me in Facebook, Linked In or GovLoop – and just because you follow me on Twitter and ReTweet my messages throughout the day – doesn’t mean that we’re buds.
Revolutions, Gladwell argues, needed viscreal participation. They required risk taking and a level of committment that we just don’t get from a Twitter following. Check out the Article in the New Yorker and tell us what you think?
January 27, 2011 at 11:29 pm #120995
Just had a chance to read this piece and really liked the counter-perspective Gladwell brings. Thanks for posting it…I let my subscription to the New Yorker lapse a while back 😉 Gladwell is basically asking “what is social media good for?” and suggesting that it may not be as useful as we think for driving some important kinds change.
The arguments are a real contrast with what Clay Shirkey and others have to say. And even though I like Shirkey’s books, it’s nice to see another side of the argument. For those interested, I found this transcript of a live chat with Gladwell and this thoughtful review of Shirky’s recent book Cognitive Surplus to be nice complements to the New Yorker piece. Just as an aside, David, it may be that a robust discussion about a topic like this doesn’t happen that often on GovLoop b/c there are probably fewer active users here who would come at it from the Gladwell side. – jj
February 25, 2011 at 5:02 am #120993
Dale S. BrownParticipant
I just read the article “Small Change” and appreciated that Gladwell pointed out that social media strengthen weak ties and do not create the kind of committment that social change requires. On the other hand, it appears that social media was critical to the revolution in Egypt (which had not happened when this was published.)
One point I would like to make is that Social Media can reinforce strong relationships. You need the relationship to persuade people to come to your meeting, but social media and e-mail help with the set up and logistics.
February 25, 2011 at 4:22 pm #120991
Dale – I appreciate your point of view. Social media can help to deepen and reinforce relationships, but I think the process of creating relationships strong enough to motivate people to take physical action requires a level of commitment that is not found in typical Facebook-like “freinding.”
To illustrate my point, one fellow, who saw me on stage at a live event in DC, sent me a text message with his name an email. I sent him a subscription to one of our email newsletters on Leveraging Technology in the DoD. In return, he sent me an invite to join GovLoop this morning. He was already my “friend” in GovLoop context before he sent me an invite, but I suspect he didn’t connect the dots.
Not that I didn’t appreciate his gesture – sending an invite to connect on GovLoop is a pretty good way to keep discussions moving forward. But if he was a friend in the sense that we knew one another on a deeper level, I doubt I would have seen that invitation.
On the other hand, I am a member of a small (half dozen) group of CIO’s who have been corresponding via Blackberry pin to pin messaging every single day + weekends since April of 2001. We have accomplished great things together – personally and professionally. Since we live in six different states, these accomplishments would not have been possible without our form of social networking.
It’s important to note, however, that I think the depth of our relationships is greatly enhanced by personal contact. Those of us who meet outside of the “cafe” in real life, have stronger bonds.
I would also add that a conversation between myself and those folks in our “BB Cafe” is not the typical conversation one finds in a conventional social media setting – where people loosely know one another and keep things on a purely business or professional level. We get messy. Human messy. Not the kind of thing any of us would want to publish on Facebook or GovLoop, but it’s been gratifying enough to keep at least two of the six from switching to iPhones – which we want to do, but won’t because we don’t want to break up “the cafe.”
Perhaps Mr. Gladwell was making a generalization about the majority of social media contacts that we see. The “click here if you like x” method of rallying supporters for a cause is different than asking people to drop coin on a two hour plane ticket to Chicago from the east coast.
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