Is it time to de-social our lives?

Shall we go home and tweet each other instead?

The hype over social media is over.  While most of us – as individuals – have found the right uses for social media in our personal and professional lives, its potential has, for now, been pretty much realized.

We can network like never before, communicating electronically with girlfriends we haven’t seen since our teens, with people with whom we once worked, forgot about, and probably will never see again, and with people we were subjected to at college and never really liked, whose Facebook pics of their kids seem mildly more than interesting than the presentation we are supposed to be reviewing.

Not only that, we are being deluged with crap from people we really don’t need – or want – to hear from, and will never acknowledge or respond to.  How important is it that someone I barely know just updated her LinkedIn profile, or someone I once fired just endorsed me for my management skills (seriously)?  How critical is it that my competitors are tweeting their own yawn-inducing PR at a faster rate than my firm… to no-one in particular?

If your life is anything like mine, you simply cannot cope with the velocity of electronic bullish*t surrounding your day. Let’s face facts here, folks… social media has become a distraction – and, (I hate to admit it), probably a big fat waste of time. It has also dragged me into having ridiculously superficial relationships with people I probably do not need to invest my time with, being ridiculously superficial.

While social has played a great purpose in expanding my electronic database and reconnecting me with all these people my life didn’t really need back in it, it’s now reached a point where I am trying to figure out how to de-social myself from some of this rubbish.

And to prove that “social” really doesn’t count for much when it comes to enterprise strategy, this is where it ranked as an enterprise priority, in our recent state of industry study conducted with KPMG:

Click to Enlarge

While people will argue that it’s still “early days” for social media, it’s already been years since the whole world (seemingly) started using it.  It’s here and it matters, but is it really enabling new business innovations and dominating corporate thinking?  I don’t think so – and neither do most of the 400 enterprises we spoke to. I would argue that it’s actually time to “de-social” our behavior to regain the effectiveness and quality of our interactions and relationships.

So here are some top-of-mind ideas on how to improve the quality of our real social lives:

1) Kill the PowerPoint in conference calls.  PPT gives everyone, bar the presenter, the opportunity to zone out and do mindless tasks – and you can only guess how many of the folks on the call are checking their Facebook updates or tweeting some mindless crap to noone in-particular.  Surprise your conference call comrades by engaging them in a (gasp) conversation.  They will actually have to listen and respond.

2) Remove the Twitter/LI/FB apps from your mobile device.  These apps will find a way to give you a notification update every 5 minutes, which I guarantee will have a meaningless impact on your life.  Go in and check your updates once or twice a day manually – you’ll save those hours of wasted time and energy nervously checking your phone like a reflex action that you just can’t control…

3) Start calling people up just to “chat”.  This may freak people out, but what happened to the days when you could call people and just talk about stuff?  It seems we spend more time trying to create a freaking appointment to talk for 30 mins in three weeks’ time, when you could have just called each other up there and then.

4) Make efforts to have more in-person meetings.  My word, the quality of interaction in a face-to-face meeting, versus a conference call or web-session, is eons higher.  You talk, you listen, you exchange ideas…

5) Go to more conferences.  Everyone’s just so “busy” these days, but what happened to those days when we went to conferences, met people, had a few beers with them etc?  Haven’t you noticed how “sanitized” some of your relationships have become?  It’s because you’re restricting your interactions to freaking LI messages, “likes” in facebook chats and re-bloody-tweets.  Take it from me – nothing beats a pint of beer, a glass of wine or a decent single malt to have a real conversation with someone.

To prove my point, I will buy anyone a drink who shows up at my office over the next two weeks… but hurry while stocks last :)

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25 Comments

  1. Paul McDonough
    Posted July 21, 2013 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

    Fantastic post, Phil. I couldn’t agree more about the deteriorating quality of many of our relationships. We all need to make more of an effort to talk more, have more in-person meetings and rely less of the electronic communication,

    Paul

  2. Posted July 21, 2013 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

    I dropped my iPhone in a swimming pool a week ago. It worked for a couple of days, then died. I suspect the battery has gone, as it just refuses to charge. I could just buy a new one, but I figured it’s worth checking the battery before shelling out for a new phone so I ordered a battery online – which will take a few days to arrive. In the meantime I’ve had no phone for a few days. And it’s actually not been so bad. I haven’t got lost without the GPS. I haven’t stopped checking Facebook, just checked it less often. I think when I do get my phone back my personal behaviour will have changed. It might be a good idea for many people to have a bit of a detox – just a few days is enough to see the difference.

  3. Kathryn Butler
    Posted July 21, 2013 at 10:12 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for this blast of sanity, Phil. What I continue to wonder is where people get the time to mount all these posts if they work for a living, and furthermore, for 95% of them, who cares that they went to Starbucks, or bought a new dress?? Just so much drivel. Glad to hear that real interaction is on the rise. It’s certainly more effective!

  4. tushar dand
    Posted July 22, 2013 at 4:40 am | Permalink

    Fabulous post Phil.
    Although this breaks a few myths that have been thrown at us by few blessed souls, who think that they have evolved when they speak about social media.

    In a better way, this survey proves the point that we always use to ponder upon.

    Thanks for such valuable insights.

  5. Posted July 22, 2013 at 8:16 am | Permalink

    I totally agree Phil.

    I think it really hits at a core problem that we have when communicating now through the digital world. I do think some people might think it would be overly aggressive, but I happen to share the same view as you, so for me it is not. I do think though that people who may first think it is overly aggressive may know deep down that it would be good for them to distance themselves from digital socialization. We are really social animals, and social media does not capture the type of interaction that we really need as people.

  6. Stuart Forbes
    Posted July 22, 2013 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    Great article Phil! The Emperor has no clothes!!! Years ago Steve Jobs tried to sell the Newton, problem was no killer app. Then there were PDAs but no mass interest (i.e. no one under 25) a few combined phones with PDAs, most stank. Then Steve did the iphone a PDA with a bucket load of apps and telephony and along came the killer apps for the under 25s, which after wider adoption are beginning to acquire a smell of death as users mature, don’t you just love evolution!! What’s next? Wish I new, my crystal ball only has hindsight.

  7. Jim Whitehead
    Posted July 22, 2013 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    Amen, Phil!

  8. Jackie Smith
    Posted July 22, 2013 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    Phil,

    Thanks for saying what has needed to be said for a very long time. I love the benefits of social, but it really has taken the personal touch out of many of my relationships. Definitely time to get a better balance,

    Jackie

  9. Davinder
    Posted July 22, 2013 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    You just made my breakfast, Phil. Best blog on social media ever -:)

  10. Jason
    Posted July 22, 2013 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    I salute you for this, Phil! Brilliant piece and completely agree that social media has gone too far.

    Jason

  11. David Cairns
    Posted July 22, 2013 at 10:34 am | Permalink

    Phil,

    Does this mean I shouldn’t be reading this?

    Dave Cairns

  12. Phil Fersht
    Posted July 22, 2013 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    @dave – Yes. Exit your browser and get back to work.

  13. Phil Fersht
    Posted July 22, 2013 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    @adam: i love the value social media brings… and have an LI group of 21K, 6K LI followers and 4K twitter followers. plus our firm has a subscription base of 130K, much of which can thank social media for ‘spreading the word’

    I just feel (strongly) many people are not managing it in the right way. it’ll flesh out naturally as people figure out its best place. too much noise and clutter is diluting its value and impacting the way some people are working. what I didn’t mention is that many folks are clearly addicted to social… and it’s probably become a real issue with their work performance.

    one other point of interest is that senior executives are not nearly as active on social as mid-junior managers…

  14. Phil Fersht
    Posted July 22, 2013 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    @stuart – then suddenly they integrated the sony walkman, olympus trip, A-Z, calculator and the internet into one little device. Let’s just not lose touch of people-to-people interactions as we get more and more submerged in our electronic worlds… am especially worried for the younger generations ;)

  15. Posted July 22, 2013 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    Great Post Phil, syncs with some of the things that I have been pondering upon, to extend this hypothesis slightly; have we ever asked questions like:

    a) How many Tweets handles can we really follow.
    b) Are our interest so static that we have not purged the list since we started on Twitter a century ago
    c) Are our social media objectives clear.
    d) Are my tweets like the spam messages that we keep on getting and ignoring.

    But on another note, a number of corporations can still be more social, many corporations still have to get there ear to the ground and understand what really matters to its consumers, and how it is perceived by them.

    Mrinal Singh

    Web Presence
    http://www.linkedin.com/in/mrinalsingha

  16. Suresh
    Posted July 22, 2013 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    How about blogging itself Phil? Is that not social media, are you shutting down HfS and going back to conference calls which analysts used to do some years ago ;-) ?

  17. Phil Fersht
    Posted July 22, 2013 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

    @suresh – oh those were the days :)

    in all seriousness is blogging really “social media”, or just a nice, digestible, informal, puff-free way to get information to market?

    PF

  18. Deborah Scroggin
    Posted July 22, 2013 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

    I’m with you Phil. I try to use the social media sparingly and use it only to get those things out I wish to share with like minded people. However, over the last few years, I have become less connected via FB, especially. It became a huge time waster for me. I find it much more enjoyable to speak with people face to face sometimes. Although, I do believe social media has a proper use. Overall, I’m with you.

  19. Tim
    Posted July 22, 2013 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    Once again, the difference between HFS and the “G” or “F” comes to light with this blast. 3 minutes of reading, one chart, I feel better and my thinking throughout the afternoon is influenced. For those of you on the fence with Social Media Good-or-bad, consider one of these new parent apps that limits Social Media ‘units-of-work’ each day to a defined number, and see if it changes how and what you use your device for. When given a chance to respond to Phil’s brilliance here or send a congratulatory Happy Birthday to my second cousin once removed….whatever her name is, I choose Phil.

  20. Tron
    Posted July 23, 2013 at 2:04 am | Permalink

    Just wondering… Like a doctor, who endlessly endeavors through his professional practice to put himself out of business, does the author promote his message through the media he wishes to make irrelevant? Or, does a tree falling in the forest make a sound if there is no one to hear? Or, what is the sound of one hand clapping?

    Wish against the wind, dude… Like Chevy Chase in “Family Vacation’… We’re in too deep.

  21. Posted July 23, 2013 at 4:03 am | Permalink

    @Phil: Cant agree with you more on blogging and how neat it is. Do what you want to social media, but please don´t give up on blogging, you have easily the best blog on outsourcing out there, especially considering its main purpose apparently is to promote your firm!

  22. Posted July 23, 2013 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    Phil: Really enjoyed this provocative article on “de-social”. A lot of senior business leaders feel the same way.

    First, I do not think we are going to a less connected or less transparent world. What does it mean to have online social relationship? Each social platform has it pros & cons. Many people are great at growing the quantity of social relationships online. But a lot of individuals, do not know how to grow or measure the “quality” of their social relationships online or off.

    If you are a person, leader, or business trying to grow a following and build a trusted reputation, and social media is very cost effective. If your goals are to grow a business, once you are connected to someone online, what steps do you take to go from being Known, to being Liked, to being Trusted, and then to being Referred (KLTR). It is not an easy social process, but it is being done.

    I do not see unplugging from social media as a way to increase the the quantity or improve the quality of your social relationships that attracts new opportunity or knowledge to you. Quantity and quality of social relationships are both important today. I too believe that face to face relationships are tremendously valuable and important.

    In the outsourcing world, many clients never see “what” is being done in these ITO & BPO centers so I I believe that the ability for the vendors/suppliers to build quality relationships and earn Relationship Capital (RC) online as well as off is critical for the industry to continue to grow.

  23. P. Haftman
    Posted July 24, 2013 at 8:38 am | Permalink

    Having a career in high-tech for 25+years, I never did ‘go social’ with Facebook. Never saw the need or the point. Just don’t see the need to bother myself with trivialities of other people’s lives. There are so many other worth while things to do with my time. And you’re right…face time and interacting with others whether in a business or social situation cannot be replaced by Likes.

  24. Alok Jha
    Posted July 30, 2013 at 11:58 am | Permalink

    Thanks a bunch, Phil. These frequent beeps (FB, Twitter, LI) have been really compromising the quality of conversations, meetings, or tasks that we have been doing. I will write this note and uninstall these apps from my BB. However, what does one do with BBM and Whatsapp?!

    There is no denying the fact that a face-to-face meeting is any day better than these virtual retweets and likes. As social/human beings, there is a strong need that we have to connect and these apps have just exploited that need. We just need to realize that virtual can never match up to real connects.

    Thanks for sharing. :)

  25. Biju Kannan
    Posted November 22, 2013 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

    Cant better agree, Phil. Great post!

2 Trackbacks

  1. [...] The problem at the moment is that businesses are run by people who have grown up with the Taylor view of the world. When it comes to enterprise strategy, that “social” really doesn’t count for much when it comes to enterprise strategy, according to a study by KPMG. [...]

  2. [...] tools are developed in the future that allow us to manage our information environments better, de-social some of the insanity that deluges us, and focus on the experts we trust and opinions that matter. [...]

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