Social Networks: Valuable Only If You Cultivate Them

Today is my birthday.  And for the last several years, I’ve not thought of my birthday as anything to look forward to.  I’ve certainly not felt comfortable drawing attention to it.  Once you get to be my age, they honestly aren’t a big deal anymore – at least I thought that was the case.

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In the twelve months since my last birthday, my involvement in social networks has grown tremendously.  In 2008 I joined Facebook, Twitter, Plaxo, LinkedIn, FriendFeed and Vimeo, just to name a few (click any of my personal links to the right to find out more on any of these networking sites).

One of the things I appreciate most about social networking, particularly when it comes to Facebook and Twitter, is the opportunity to consistently connect with people I’d all but lost touch with before joining.  Back then it took a rare e-mail or a chance meeting to catch up.  On Facebook though dozens of people, many of whom I haven’t seen in years, have sent me birthday wishes.

“What’s the big deal Jeff,” you may be thinking.  I know, I know, it’s a simple thing to do.  I’ve done it many times myself.  Your connections can literally “stumble” upon the fact it’s your birthday with no effort at all.  But knowing each one took the time to send me a note has caused me to stop and think about how lucky a guy I am.

It doesn’t have to start and stop there, of course.  But often times it does.  And, yes, I’m as guilty as anybody.  But why is that?  Why are so many of us “connected” to people we’re not bothering to actually connect with on a more regular basis?  Time?  Too many connections to manage?  Connecting to people we don’t know well?

The reasons are many, but I know one thing.  One of my goals for 2009 will be to work harder at making “real” connections that I take time to cultivate, rather than connections for connections sake.

How about you?

Will you help hold me accountable?