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You Can't Communicate Too Much

By Joe Wessels · February 11th, 2009 · Wessels

My recent attendance at a casual junior high school reunion might indicate to some that I’m a true Westsider. I would say it has more to do with me being a Facebooker.

If you haven’t checked your tweets on Twitter, friended your friends, updated your status, combed over your RSS feeds or checked out your YouTube channel, social networking is taking over the Internet.

Everyone is doing it: Even my 65-year-old mother, who still refuses to get an ATM card.

I have about 930 “friends” on Facebook (nearly all I’ve actually met or otherwise know), 620 “connections” on LinkedIn and 165 or so on MySpace, which I’ve nearly abandoned. Then there’s poor old Friendster, which I login to when I want to remember the good ol’ days of social networking; I somehow still have 39 contacts there.

About 370 people “follow” me on Twitter; and I follow about 385 of my own, many the same people. There’s Flickr, of course, the photo sharing Web site. About 29 contacts there.

I keep all this straight thanks to the iPhone, which, when not in my hand with me staring at it, is always in a nearby pocket.

Am I bragging? Not really. I’m just an “early adopter,” another term used to describe people like me who jump on new technology early in its existence. Join now, and you, too, can have the luxuries of a network this big.

What’s the point of all these numbers and contacts? I have no real, clear or specific idea. But I sure feel connected and networked.

Is it time for you to get on board? Most definitely.

Besides being a way to find old friends and keep in touch with current or new ones, social networking allows for untold business opportunities.

You can share that you’re looking for a job, looking for love, having a party or opening a business.

This new way of communicating is much less intrusive than e-mail and is informed by what your friends and acquaintances are saying, doing and sharing. Instead of broadcasting something, users of social networks are targeting their messages to people who actually give a darn about them.

The size of your network matters, but the relationships are just as important.

Back in high school, when you wrote “Stay the same” or “Keep in touch” in your friend’s friend’s yearbook you really meant, loosely translated, “I honestly plan to never talk to you again.” No one stays in touch, and no one really stays the same.

I loved high school and many of the people I knew, but when that last bell rang back in 1992 I felt the release of an extreme social pressure valve. As a result, I’ve kept in perpetual friendship with just one friend from high school.

That’s it. Actually, we met in kindergarten 30 years ago this year, so he probably doesn’t count as a “high school friend.”

But, damn, that Internet. The Web was the only force possible to bring together a dozen or so people I went to junior high with — people I hadn’t seen in more than 16 years — for beers, food and genuine laughter at Arnold’s Bar & Grill downtown. It was one of the most delightful evenings I’ve had in eons. I hope we do it again soon.

The social networking bonanza of the past 12 months has allowed old friends to re-connect on a whole new plane as adults with lives, families, jobs, spouses, former spouses, good times and bad times. This history, despite the time lapse, bonds with invisible, nearly indestructible strings — minus the pettiness of a junior high hallway between classes.

Hardly a day goes by when I don’t find someone I haven’t seen in years but truly enjoyed knowing. Now I can keep in touch easily as well as share what I’m doing, my humor and my needs and let the network respond and, when I need it, help me out.

More than one person has told me this networking is silly. No one will ever need all of these connections, they’ve said.

I’m adamant that these advances make people better communicators, something woefully lacking even with the people we see every day. I was having this particular argument one day over a cell phone, a device, I pointed out to my network-resistant friend, no one “needed” 10 years ago.

If you haven’t already, please join us in the network. You never know who you might run into.

CONTACT JOE WESSELS: joe@joewessels.net



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