The Most Important Social Medium

By Scott Westerman
“The most important things in our lives are our relationships and the most rewarding medium for strengthening them is the time we spend together.”

My Klout score is  65. My stock value at Empire Avenue is 51.24. I have 2,300 Twitter followers, 831 LinkdIn and 1,063 Facebook friends.

Does any of this really matter?

The other day, I visited with an 80 year old MSU alumnus who came to me asking the key question: “Is any of this really important?”

That got me to thinking.

Social media and text messaging are today’s version of the postal letter and the long distance call. When used efficiently, they all lead to the ultimate outcome: A productive, face-to-face relationship.

We finish emails, letters and phone conversations with, “see you soon” (or BCNU for those of you texters) for a reason. The most important things in our lives are our relationships and the most rewarding medium for strengthening them is the time we spend together.

Science Daily recently reported that college students don’t have as much empathy as they used to. David Rock, reacting to the study in the Harvard Business Review, frames one hypothesis this way, “We’re not spending time reading social cues as much anymore. We’re staring at screens, having ‘conversations’ on text, email or via social media”.

I was reminded of this recently, when I had the chance to spend a lot of in-person time with someone I regularly communicate with via text message. The quality and depth of our conversation far surpassed anything we could have said in a Tweet.

Our interaction took advantage of all the nuances that are lost in electronica. Tone of voice, eye contact, facial expressions, these are the instruments that provide a window to the soul. We interpret every stimuli with a mixture of the conscious and unconscious, the objective and subjective.

Total focus gives us the best chance to understand and add value.

Our first grandchild arrived earlier than we expected. We were able to get Colleen on a flight in time to be present for the delivery. My commitments at home meant that I had to experience the event via Skype and a flurry of emailed pictures. It was amazing to see our little guy from a distance via the magic of technology.

A few days later, I hopped a plane to Jacksonville to meet him in person. He had ten fingers, ten toes, a head full of hair and was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. Moments after I walked in the door, he was in my arms.

That is the moment that I’ll never forget.

Social media can be a powerful tool for initial connection and quick informational updates. At it’s best it’s a good reminder to nurture the relationships that are the most important to you. When all is said and done, how many Facebook friends our Twitter followers you have is not what’s really important.

It’s all about what happens in person.