Allaland

Two Perspectives

Posted on: January 28, 2010

Twitter has been named the virtual water cooler, and Facebook is the place for friends – mainly from years gone by. Most of the discourse and interest around these tools has been concentrated on how they exaggerate and perhaps enhance sociality. People get connected to long lost friends, or contacts with similar interests. The question then becomes, is the mediated nature of these tools really beneficial to all? Perhaps the folks that have been pontificating about the benefits are introverted techno-geeks, who feel comfortable with mediated interaction. The key here lies in the aspect of introversion, which by definition means that it is a person that gets energized by being alone and whose energy is drained by being around other people. What is a better outlet than social tools for an introvert, who gets to be alone and yet “around” others?

So, how do these tools actually affect an extrovert? Here is Megan Grocki’s very insightful personal perspective on the use of social tool as an extrovert:

I have always loved meeting people.  As far back as my memory goes, I can recall crossing rooms to introduce myself to someone I didn’t know yet, asking their name, smiling, trying to make them feel welcome, learning more about them.  Occasionally I would feel a pang of nervousness but for the most part meeting new people has always been effortless.

When in the midst of a group, I can quite literally feel myself feeding off the energy of others.  After I’ve had a conversation with a friend or colleague I feel like I’ve just been plugged in and am more powerful and geared up than before, and the longer I go without human interaction, the more vacant I feel.

Hands-down the best part of being on twitter is getting to actually meet the people behind the avatars, in person, for a real conversation, and a truly human exchange.  I enjoy the anticipation of getting to meet someone new, which is why I beg, borrow and steal to get to conferences!

Then why am I much more apprehensive about my social interactions online?

Social interactions online often create a much higher level of anxiety. Despite it being called social media or social networking, participating can be fairly lonely for my fellow extroverts.  My interactions with others online occur from the isolation of my computer. And blogging, feels even less comfortable for me.  Not because I am apprehensive about my writing abilities, but because it feels like such an isolating activity, done from the solitude of my computer.  When I am engaged in a “real” conversation with someone, I feel much more myself than when I am alone with my thoughts, staring at a blank screen and trying to generate something, (anything!) with a keyboard as my only tool.

I will never be able to truly know how terrifying in-person social interactions can be to a “shy” person or convey to them the energy I get from meeting new people in social situations.  However I have been thinking a lot about my own social experiences and why some of them seem so difficult for me, but come easily to those who I would consider shy.  In my (unscientific) observation, these people seem to gain the same energy or strength from being alone with their thoughts (and then sharing them afterward) as I do when I am discussing, connecting and bouncing ideas off of others.  My natural tendency when I have a problem to solve is to find someone to talk about it with, toss around possible solutions, and feel connected with others, rather than to experience the seclusion of my own thoughts.

In the spirit of authenticity and vulnerability, I also care way too much about what people think.  What if I write a blog post and no one reads it?  What if 300 people post flaming comments saying I am an idiot?  I may be a gifted networker, social butterfly, whatever… but I am scared shitless to write (and gasp! promote) a blog.  I frequently advise my friends, co-workers and family to take risks, go for it!  I have been known to say things like “what do you have to lose?” and “what are you waiting for?” when in truth I too am paralyzed in fear.  WTF, Meg?

I am hoping that years from now I will look back at this post and chuckle.  I hope that I keep trying to swim out there, out beyond the scary white breakers of the online social scene and come into my own.  I hope that I can start writing more about my thoughts for the purpose of my personal and professional growth and fulfillment, and care just a little less about what someone else might think.

So the next time someone pontificates about the social enhancement of these tools, perhaps we should all stop and recognize that there two perspectives.

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Alla Zollers

I design products and services that just. make. sense.

When products make sense, customers are happy.

If customer are happy, they sign-up, stay on site, engage, share, and buy your product or service.

Happy customers allow companies to profit in both senses of the word.

I provide the following services:

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