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Does Social Media Make you Lazy?

by Randall Craig on January 27, 2010

Filed in: Blog, Make It Happen Tipsheet, Social Media

Tagged as: ,

The answer is “it depends”… on what type of user you are.

1) The Early Adopters (younger professionals, students, tech enthusiasts), use the “channel” of Social media to develop real relationships. These deepen with – and depend upon – the social networks themselves for the relationships. Especially when the relationships are separated by geography and time zones, many of these relationships would never have even started if not for the Social Media systems themselves. There is no laziness in this group, as people in this group often consider “real world” personal contact unnecessary. On the other hand, such a strong reliance on Social Media sometimes means that they don’t develop the skills required for interaction using the phone or in-person meetings. (Interestingly, we no longer spend as much time developing skills such as “penmanship” nowadays either…)

2) The “Latest Fad” group: This group jumps on whatever is the latest and greatest, usually for reasons of ego and inclusion. They may use Social networks to communicate instead of phone and in person, if only to make the point that they are ahead of the curve (they usually aren’t). In other words, they may appear lazy, but they want to communicate the “modern” way.

3) The Opportunists: This group joins because they see some sort of personal or professional opportunity for using Social Networks. They are the entrepreneurs and info-peddlars who will do whatever it takes to sell their wares, so long as it can be done in bulk, doesn’t generate huge support requirements, and makes them some money. This group prefers “transactions” to “interactions”, and so they prefer to stay away from time-consuming traditional communications.

4) The Cynics and Realists: This group barely uses social media, or if they do, it is on a passive basis only. They prefer the telephone or in-person meetings. No laziness here… unless you consider that by not participating more actively they are shutting themselves out from professionally (and personally) relevant information and discussions.

6) Everyone Else: Like any new tool, there is a honeymoon period where the tool gets overhyped, overused, and often abused. As the honeymoon ends and the tool develops ubiquity (or dies), people develop an understanding of how, and where, it can best be used. We’re just now understanding how to properly use these tools, so there is a fair amount of exploration – which can be misinterpreted as lazy. Some historical context: Do you suspect that “social laziness” was also a concern when telephones were introduced?

Does Social Media make you lazy? No. Tools make it possible, but people make it happen. If someone is lazy, they’ll always follow the path of least resistance, no matter the tools at hand.

This week’s action item: It’s tempting to use Social Media because it’s easy, but before you quickly post/connect/tweet or follow, consider your end goal. If it’s to develop a relationship, sometimes personal contact is best. If it’s to start a discussion or probe your network, consider which of your social networks makes most sense. Your results will be vastly different if you ask via Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter. (And the responses might be different still if you asked in person.) This week, identify what type of user you are, and then consider how best to use the tool when you communicate.

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Randall Craig

@RandallCraig (follow me)