Social Networking - Risks and Rewards

I have recently been involved with a Facebook group that continually has disagreements; where relationships, which start out in apparent harmony and good rapport, gradually tend to come "unstitched at the seams", and it is possible to anticipate the acrimony and abuse that is going to develop.  If every one of the contributors to the thread were physically together in one room, you might simply shout out "Shut up!".  "Now just hug each other."  "Let's put this issue under a microscope and work out where we're going wrong".

But via the internet it would seem that all attempts to correct a misunderstanding are destined to fail; particularly where there are other contributors to the "unravelling thread" who not only have their own agenda, but have failed completely to understand or appreciate the agenda of the principal protagonists.  So the situation worsens.

Finally, from a starting point involving a pleasant relationship with a group of people with a rewarding identity of interest, and a companionable exchange of ideas, memories, suggestions, you end up interacting with people that you totally despise or distrust.  And this outcome has developed from a starting point of friendship, similarity of interest, and a desire to foster more intimate relationships.

There is really nothing wrong with social networking other than that it involves people interacting with each other. 

People tend to talk about each other, not to each other.

Donít ever burn bridges with people in your group, because you never know - you might end up being friends and valued referral partners!

Despite what Marshall McCluhan said, when it comes to networking groups, the medium is not the message.  But then, nor is the message the medium.  The benefits to be obtained from internet social networking sites far outweighs the negative results that so often occur.  And it is hard to imagine how this situation can improve.  So, perhaps we will have to continue disposing of the baby together with the bath water.   Unless we can all learn to go for win-win results.  Currently that seems extremely unlikely.  The behaviour exhibited by frequent participation in networking sites tends to promote the negativity of participants if it doesnít actually encourage it.  

The bottom line: Things sometimes go wrong, but donít perpetuate the problem through lack of open, honest communication. If you take a few minutes to talk about it in a non-confrontational way, youíll avoid making an awkward situation even worse.

A personal disagreement

Networking would be so much easier if people weren't involved! But since they are, there is inevitably going to be a disagreement now and again. The solution to this is simple: Donít focus on the problem; do focus on the solution.

If you only focus on the problem you become an expert at the problem - but you never come up with a solution to fix it.

When a member of a networking group has a disagreement with another member, it often leads to their obsessing with how much they donít like the other person - about what is wrong with them. They become an expert at what is wrong with the person they disagreed with.

Thatís not going to help anyone - not the members in the disagreement, and certainly not the other members of the group who have to listen to their drama at every meeting or get-together!

If you were to ask  ďJust how bad is this situation?Ē On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best and 1 being the worst, most of the time, the answer is 3-4.  

If you were then to ask ďWhy is it so high?Ē They will look at you like you are crazy, and probably say something like, ďBut that is low!Ē 

Sure, itís not a 9 or a 10, but if you ask them, ďWhat is good about the person you are in this disagreement with - to the point that you didnít give them a 1 or a 2?Ē And most of the time, they will come up with more than one good thing about them! 

Group leaders should encourage open, honest and direct communication between the two members. This way, the members can deal with the problem, while also embracing the positive feelings that each member will almost always have in some form or another for the other, as building blocks for finding a solution to the issue. 

If you can focus on the solutions rather than just the disagreement, you absolutely can get through most issues! 

Networking with former spouses or partners, etc. 

Networking groups tend to attract like-minded people. Because of that, these groups often bring people together for more than just business. This can be a blessing - but it can quickly turn into a curse if the relationship ends with both members still in the same group!  

While a break-up can lead to some awkward moments and feelings of discomfort when you have to face the person regularly in the days and weeks following the breakup - if the value of the network is high, itís worth working through those feelings. 

So, to put it bluntly: suck it up, and continue to network. Donít lose your carefully built network of valuable referral sources, over a few days or weeks of discomfort at the most! 

And remember - the more professional you remain throughout the breakup and in the time immediately following (by not talking badly about the other person, or bringing your personal situation into the business operations of the group), the more highly you will be viewed by the other members. 

No matter what the particular details of the situation, the fact is that at some point almost everyone will face an awkward moment with someone else, so itís probably going to happen to you. 

Michael Mallows brief but very positive review of Cyber Bullying is featured in our book review section of this issue.  You can go directly to it here.  Via the same link there is also an appropriate review by Joe Sinclair of Daniel Trottier's Identity Problems in the Facebook Era.