Lately, these ads have been springing up around the Chicago el train. They show closeups of dear friends hugging with the caption "friend request accepted" or friend crashing out on a couch with the caption "chat room full." The ads are for some type of breath-freshening gum, but they really struck me because they make a valid point. The point of all these fabulous social media tools is to bring us all together, right? To enable us to communicate more frequently, more conveniently, more authentically and more deeply? Just like social media can't exist without traditional marketing, social media interaction just isn't as effective without some good, old-fashioned face time.
Tonight was the first meetup of the Chicago Social Media Club, and River North's Pepper Canister was packed solid, full of over 200 social media folks hungry for face time. Did we spend a lot of time exchanging Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn profile names? Um, well, yeah, of course. We want to keep in touch, after all. But most of the time we spent doing what communicators do--sharing stories about life in South Africa, commenting on the drinks and the great job the harried waitress was doing, sharing opinions about the newest industry tools from Twitter to Qwitter, discussing the elections and the value of dogs versus cats and asking questions to see if we could help someone else out with a link, a recommendation or an introduction.
And I'm jazzed. I'm energized. Pumped. Excited in a way I just don't get from typing or texting. The contact, the shouting across the noisy bar, the tasteless jokes--these are things only real face time can provide. So, ten reasons why you should step AWAY from the laptop and invest in some face time:
- Prevent carpal tunnel. We type all day long. Give your hands a rest by letting them shake someone else's hand or wrap around a beer mug.
- Shifting body position can shift your perspective. Do you sit down all day? Standing up while talking to someone will change your tone of voice, your focus and your attitude toward that person. Just having the opportunity to talk to someone face-to-face, standing up, can lead the conversation in ways it wouldn't go online.
- Facial expressions and tone of voice. This has been said before, but I'll repeat it. Even with video conferencing and video Skype, there is no substitute for seeing someone's natural facial reaction to your comments in a social setting. And vocal tones like (my personal favorite) sarcasm transfer much better across a table than across Skype.
- Touch. Touch helps form connections--shaking a hand, touching a shoulder to get someone's attention--these help us to remember people better and to form stronger connections. For me, it helps my memory immensely versus someone for whom I only have a user icon as a point of reference.
- Conversations are faster, longer and flow more naturally. Most social media tools have some delay built into them--comments on blogs and podcasts, even Twitter conversations take place over hours, not seconds generally. The speed and flow of an in-person conversation can lead you places where a Twitter one might not (because after all, we all have work to do). Tonight, I got great recommendations on where to visit in South Africa, and I doubt I would have followed that conversational thread online.
- Real-life conversations reinforce virtual ones. Even if you've already talked back and forth on your blog and Twitter and Facebook with someone about your philosophy of, say, widget production, picking up that conversation in meet space will extend it to a deeper, richer place. Real life picks up where social media leaves off.
- It's fun. Hey, let's face it--holding a real glass of a rich, robust shiraz while listening to some bouncy music and fidgeting with bar coasters and responding to eye-rolls and laughter is just a more tactile, full sensory experience than emoticons can ever provide.
What would you add to this list?