Imagine teenagers in their bedrooms right now, hunched over their laptop, tapping away on their keyboard and checking out their favourite tracks on iTunes or MySpace. It’s an image that many “do-gooders” would have us believe is all too common and which is really bad for youngsters.
You can almost hear the Daily Mail headline screaming “Ban kids from the Internet” or some such diatribe. The assumption, for several years now, has been that the Internet and other modern technologies, such as mobile phones, makes us ever more socially isolated. The notion is that as we spend more hours in front of our computer screens we have less time for “real world” human connections. It is a theory that hasn’t really been tested – until now.
The Pew Internet & American Life Project (a respected research group) has studied the apparent social isolation of Internet users only to find the reverse of what has been thought for years. According to the report, Social Isolation and New Technologies, Internet users have much more diverse and deep human connections than people who don’t use modern technology. The research also found that Facebook users tend to have the most diverse and deep relationships.
Popular theory is that the Internet reduces our social diversity and makes us ever more isolated. This new study confirms what many of us have thought for ages – the Internet INCREASES social activity, not reduces it.
Now, if you are in business this is an important notion. The one thing that any business leader will tell you – whether they use the Internet or not – it’s your network of contacts and connections that determines your degree of success. Ultimately in business it’s not what you know, but who you know.
This means that people who embrace Internet technologies – particularly social networks – are likely to be more successful in business than those who don’t use such things. This is simply because by using social networks you end up with more diverse and deeper connections to a wider range of people. Far from being isolating and reducing your business, engaging in online social activity is bound to improve your business. If you avoid Facebook and the like, you could actually be doing your business harm as you are likely to have fewer connections and less deep relationships as a result. And in business, it’s relationships that count.
So, do yourself a favour. Ignore those Daily Mail headlines which suggest that using the Internet too much will isolate you and disconnect you from the real world. The reverse is actually true. You need to engage in online social networking to enhance your real world social activity and to deepen those relationships. If you haven’t signed up for Facebook or Ecademy etc etc – don’t delay any longer; you are doing your business a disservice if you do.
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+