Friday, October 5, 2012

Facebook and Linked In, Useful Social Media

Usually when I meet a new person with whom I wish to stay in touch I will ask for their email address, and I will ask if they are on Facebook or Linked In.  Responses to these requests/questions will run along the lines of “I will give you my phone number” or “I hardly use my email” or “Facebook?  I have no time for Facebook” or “Linked In?  What is that?”.

These responses are a cause for anguish for me.  Let me explain.

Remember the big “networking” fad of the eighties?   I do.  Huge “networking fairs” were organized.  I was invited to many at the time – I had my own business and it was a “thing” to be a female business owner.  I went to ONE such event.  Only one.  Why?  Because it was a NOISY affair.  I was in a room with some 100 or more participants, everyone was talking, and I simply could not hear what was being said to me.  Due to my hearing impairment I could not network.  I remember despairing of the ability to be even more successful than I already was.  It was a bit of a blow to my self esteem.  I considered myself rather socially adept despite the disability.  But in that environment – forget it.  And so I considered myself a lousy networker.   That is factor one in my explanation.  Read on.  You will get the point eventually.

 Growing up I used the phone with the same ease as a hearing person.  I was a regular chatterbox, talking to my friends on the phone as a teenager.  I used the phone both socially and professionally.  I had no hesitation when faced with having to pick up the phone and place a call.  Then, in the mid-90’s all that changed.  No, my hearing had not changed.  But technology did.  Cordless, wireless, digital, cellular technologies invaded the telecommunications industry.   Phones were no longer all analog. In fact, analog phones were going the way of dinosaurs.   Hearing aid technology was also changing.  HA’s were also using the same technologies as telecommunications.  BUT – the changes were not occurring in tandem or with any kind of cooperation.  Thus compatibility between hearing aids and telephones, which were 100% between analog phones and analog aids, dropped to nearly nil.  Since then, it has gotten better, but nowhere near the previous 100% rate.   Not only that.  Clarity of sound in analog technology is far better than in digital technology.   The result of all this was that I lost the ability to use the phone with ease.  I became MORE disabled as a result of technological advances, not less disabled!  That is factor two in my explanation. 

Along with the technological advances in telecommunications came the internet explosion.  Back in 1995 the internet was still raw, the wild west of the technoworld.  But I recognized in it the possibility of replacement – I realized that instant messaging and email could replace for me somewhat what I lost in using the phone.  It was then that I began using email and IM as a replacement.  Of course, it was a limited replacement – many people still did not have email, and were not using Instant Messaging (IM).  However, over the years, the usage of email and IM has grown exponentially.  Now, nearly everyone I know has an email address, and most people use IM some of the time.  

Then along came Linked In and Facebook.  I joined Linked In first, since in the beginning Facebook was not open to everyone.  I did not see any immediate benefit to joining Linked In but I stuck with it.  As soon as Facebook opened up to me, I joined.  Facebook gave me an immediate benefit. Suddenly, I was better able to network socially.  All the stuff I missed in social interactions, the subtleties such as “overhearing” someone say this or that, was right there in front of me, in print, in black and white!  As Facebook improved over time, and as I grew my social network on Facebook, my social ability also grew.  It was quite amazing and gratifying for me! After all these years of struggling socially, I suddenly felt as if I had finally “come into my own”.  In the meantime, I was also quietly growing my Linked In network, and fine tuning my professional profile on Linked In.  I was not finding it particularly useful and so long gaps of time would go by between the times I would check in on my Linked In profile or network.

After moving to Israel, and spending some time fine tuning my Linked In profile further, I found that suddenly, I was receiving more invitations to connect on Linked In and also was invited to interview for jobs or invited to consult.  It was quite amazing how Linked In has done so much work for me since I am living in Israel. 

Much of this is all thanks to Hashem’s Hashgacha Pratis – but it is said that He helps those who help themselves.  I do my hishtadlus, and then He helps me along. 

But I digress.  Back to my introductory paragraph, wherein which I describe encountering people who tell me they do not use Facebook or Linked In.  Not only that they tell me they do not use those services, but many of them tell me this with a disparaging tone, and say they “don’t have time for that kind of stuff” and seem to indicate to me that Facebook in particular is a “waste of time”. 

What I have attempted to do with this little essay of mine is to explain to my readers why Facebook, for ME is NOT a waste of time, and how Facebook (and Linked In) have improved my life, both socially and professionally. 

Both have provided me with a network of friends, family, acquaintances, co-workers, employers or potential employers, and professional relationships.  Those networks have allowed me to read and learn about what is going on in the world, in my neighborhood, in my town, in my country, in other countries, amongst my friends and family.  Those networks have allowed me post questions, requests, and information that may be beneficial to those who read my posts.  Those networks have provided the ability for conversational discourse on an infinite number of topics. While I know that the printed word cannot always adequately convey the sense or context of a person’s emotions that the human voice can,  it is still a great substitute for someone like myself. 

There are those who state that these new social media are loaded with lies, lashon hora, and have great potential be hurtful.   They are correct.  But that has been true of all media, for MILLENIUM.  The big difference is, I will acknowledge, is that social media is immediate, explosive (exponential growth or propagation of posts), and far more easily exploited.  But just as one does not throw out the baby with the bathwater, we should not dismiss the positive benefits of social media.  I believe Facebook and Linked In have been extremely beneficial, not only to me and others like me, but to all who use them.  

1 comment:

  1. Rabbi Pinchas Winston says that the internet is the modern version of the Etz Ha-Da'at Tov v'Ra. In other words, it is essentially benign. WE determine, by how we use it, if the internet is a blessing or a curse.

    Like you, I not only do not find Facebook a waste of time (since I choose not to use it that way), but in fact have found it to be a relationship-enhancer. I have rebuilt my relationships with my siblings. I have maintained and even deepened friendships with longtime friends I had to leave behind when we made aliyah. I have even found it to be a useful teenangel parenting tool, as I monitored the conversations and photo choices of my sons, with their full knowledge. (Note to parents: since most kids actually LIKE boundaries, no matter what they tell us, this has actually increased the openness and ease of my communication with my boys. We are now, as they move into adulthood, as close to "friends" as good parenting allows.)

    And, Rachel, Facebook has allowed me friendships with lovely people like you, whom I may otherwise never have had the pleasure to meet.

    Looking forward to seeing you and speaking to you in person!