Social networking may be in your genes

Some people are avid social networkers and build up huge numbers of “connections” and “friends” online. Take a look at Thomas Power, the Chairman of Ecademy, for instance. He has over 15,000 contacts in Ecademy and almost as many in LinkedIn. Does he really know all those people? If you think he’s in a fix, consider Ron Bates – LinkedIn’s top networker who has almost 40,000 connections.

Facebook appears to limit the number of friends. Steve Hofstetter, for instance, managed to amass over 200,000 friends, but was cutback by Facebook to a puny 5,000. Charlie Rosenbury reportedly had a similar reduction in his friends list. These limits are probably more to do with the loads on Facebook’s servers than anything else. But it does raise the question, why do people have so many connections and friends online?

You would have thought, for instance, that with all the hype about online social networking that teenagers would be avid networkers. Indeed, the media coverage would have us believe that MySpace and so on are full of spotty youths. However, a recent report on teens and social media suggests otherwise.

Networking teens are already social
The research behind the report shows some interesting facts, according to Dr John M. Grohol. He points out that only 6 out of 10 teenagers who use the Internet have a social networking profile. But digging deeper into the statistics he reveals a more interesting fact.

The teenagers who are the most connected and active in online social networks are also the most socially active offline. In other words, online social networking is not perceived as different. These individuals are “naturally” social and do social things online and offline.

You would have thought that spending ages on Facebook, MySpace and so on, the online social networkers would not have time to spend with their friends offline. But it seems the reverse is true. The more that people network online, the more time they spend with “real” people.

It was fascinating yesterday when I sparked a debate in Ecademy about going for quantity rather than quality in the online contacts you have. Some people were dubious about going for raw numbers. However, my anecdotal evidence is that the more social you are, the more success you have in several areas of life, including business. No, there’s no science in this, just a hunch.

But take a look back at Thomas Power’s numbers. He has tens of thousands of online contacts. Yet he is one of the busiest offline networkers I know, attending dozens of meetings each month. So is he, like the research suggests, naturally social? Certainly.

The evidence is mounting that online social networking is merely an extension of our natural inclination to want to be with other people, just for the sake of being with other people. Those individuals who see social networking as something different or just for teens are missing out. If you like meeting people offline, you will love it online. And if you like people and you have thousands of online connections, you will like it even more, because you will take the time to meet them, since you are naturally social.

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