When I started my career, being social with your colleagues meant going to the local watering hole after work to have a few drinks. Although the topic may have been sports, current events, vacation, or politics just to name a few it was not uncommon for it to be a continuation of the workday. There were many occasions where we would end up talking about work issues with peers as well as folks who were at the next level up (or more).
My career started at Unisys which was a $10 billion dollar company at the time. Being social presented an opportunity for relatively new staff members such as myself to interact with much more senior people, express their opinions and learn what the bosses thought about various issues. Department heads would take their team out to build camaraderie but it was also an environment where one could get some off the record guidance or coaching. There were even occasions when the CEO would show up to get the pulse of the organization (and then pick up the tab).
The custom of an after-work drink has faded over the years and there is good and bad in losing that tradition. And certainly in the current environment with so many working from home, it’s nearly vanished. Being “too social” back then meant being at the bar every night, drinking too much, or possibly saying the wrong thing. Certainly, more than one career has been cut short due to after hours banter.
Today, the environment is different but not without similar peril and it actually seems even easier to be “too social”. For starters, people use social media to express all sorts of opinions that are better kept among family or friends. Everyone has a right to their own beliefs but when you start denigrating others who might hold different views, then you’re probably not doing your career or business any favors. Another issue is social media can absorb an inordinate amount of time. It’s designed to do so. Little hits of dopamine keep one engaged when “friends” or complete strangers affirm your opinion. Finally, it’s divisive. Rather than finding some common ground which is possible in most conversations, social media tends to have a polarizing effect. It’s not conversational or even argumentative (defined as an exchange of views and reasoning); it’s most often disparaging. Social media is simply a poor forum for discussion as too much of communication is lost without true give and take and non-verbal communication such as facial expressions. And for some reason beyond my comprehension, people become invested in arguments with complete strangers. Frankly, I’ve even found myself engaged in these exchanges from time to time and later wondered why I bothered to do so.
On July 4th I declared my independence from a popular social media platform. Maybe it’s time to think of your social media activities from a more strategic point of view and ask yourself how they are serving your overall interests?
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