Thursday, March 10, 2011

Selfish - There's An App For That!

Is technology making people more self-centered? 

People are buried in their smart phones, media devices, iPads, iPods, laptops, GPS, gaming devices, and other tech apparatus all the time and some never see anyone or anything beyond our own hand-held devices.

I enjoy the YouTube video of the woman in the mall who falls into a fountain while texting as she walks.  It perfectly shows how into self we can get. 

We spend so much time in our own "stuff" that I believe it is getting harder for people to look outside.  We thought that technology, the internet and social media were going to make it easier to connect with others, and yet it can have the opposite effect.

This discussion of being self-focused plays into networking at live face-to-face events.  The ease of sending a LinkedIn or Facebook friend request is making some folks more hesitant and less comfortable having conversations.  It is becoming more difficult to approach others, and I am being asked to mentor people on how to begin conversations at live events.

There seems to be a misguided feeling that networking is about self.  Who can I meet who can help me?  How do I get on that person's radar? Me. Me. Me.  If it is not easy, people do not want to do it.  When there is not clear path to payday... they rationalize themselves away from humans and back to technology.

I find that networking only works when it is honestly about developing long-term, mutually-beneficial relationships where both parties achieve more because of the relationship than they would have without it.  This cannot work if one person has selfish motivations (some self-focused reasons are normal, yes, but it cannot be the only reason).  It takes work, and giving, up front or there is no foundation for a real relationship.

And yet people are always showing they are not interested in making things better for the other guy.  Oh, they want to... they hope they will.... but they revert back to self on the most basic things. 

This is evident in the simplest tools in networking.... Business Cards.  The argument comes up every May around the SXSW Interactive Conference, as I encourage people to bring plenty of business cards.  This is one of the most friendly and open hearted events, and the networking is HUGE.  People love to make connections at SXSW, but meeting someone once does not make them part of your network.  Meeting someone once makes them someone you have met once.  The real networking is in the follow up.

But how can anyone properly follow up if there is no exchange of contact info?  And this is where it breaks down.  I always hear people say "Business Cards? This is a tech events, no cards.... just digital!". 

"I don't carry cards, we can use technology to connect on the spot at SXSW"
Sounds good, but it is really a self-focused answer.  I am not talking either or.. I am saying be prepared to interact with anyone you might meet.... even those who are not your tech equal.

Here is why some of the anti-business card arguments fall short.....

1. Do not assume everyone uses the same applications.  If you use one tool (like Bump), and they use another, you are making an assumption that yours is superior.  One of you will need to change or simply pass without trading info.  If you had a card and you are not a perfect match on a digital level, you have an easy way to trade information.  It shows you are prepared and not just in lust with the hottest app.

2. Telling them to link via LinkedIn or Facebook makes does not take into consideration that people use these social media tools differently.  Some people do not like to immediately link to every person they cross paths with, as they believe that it adds too much noise.  They reserve these for those they have established relationships with. 

A policy that restricts all linking is neither "right" nor "wrong" ... just different.  If the other person does not want to link to you just because you sat next to each other in a breakout session does not make them a bad person.  In fact, often the people who cherish the cultivation of real relationships are the ones you especially want to know better.

3. Telling someone to "Google Me" is asking them to do additional work to find you later.  If they are bad with names, or if you name is "Bob Smith" this can become a time consuming and difficult search.  Many will abandon following up with you if you make them work for it.

4. "Cards are so uncool" - Oh please.... get over needing to be cool, and be practical.  Besides, I bet you some of the coolest people you have ever met carry business cards!  If your "shtick" is about not having cards it makes me want to barf.... do not have a "shtick". (yes, a person last year told me "not having a business card is part of my aloof persona".  HUH?)

5. "I don't want people to follow up with me... I want to select who I follow up with" is another statement I hear from some folks.  Just think about that one for a minute.  I don't think I need to discuss why this sounds self-centered.

6. "I forget to bring cards".  This might sends a message that you did not think ahead.  It is not that difficult, as you remembered to wear underwear (or not).

techy".... it just shows that you want to make it simple for the other person to find you if they choose to do that. 

****One last point.... Do not be a business card pusher.  You do NOT need to trade cards with everyone you meet.  There should be a legitimate reason to trade cards.  Some people walk around and shove cards in the hands of strangers, and then wonder why networking does not work for them.  You need to see a purpose for the card exchange or the paper in your hand becomes trash very quickly.

****Note, I am not calling anyone "selfish", I am just saying some people are not thinking this topic through all the way.  The world "selfish" seems to be very very sensitive to some folks.  I find this discussion sends some into a wild response that I am somehow attacking them (yes, I have been called a "dick" for my strong belief that a business card is still important in the digital age!).  What I am saying is that you need to think of your motivation for not having a card.  Is it to make your life easier, or the other person's life easier?  That is the question for discussion. 

I welcome comments!

Have A Great Day

thom singer

1 comment:

Juli Monroe said...

Catching up on this a bit late. I completely agree with you on business cards. They are not out of date, and I don't care if some people think they aren't cool. I love my iPhone, but I still don't have "Bump." I want the card. And I don't want to automatically connect with someone on LinkedIn just because I spoke to him/her for two minutes at an event.

Spot on, Thom! As usual.