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October 04 2011


NetSquared: Deepening Relationships on the Social Web

One of the things that excites me about being part of the NetSquared community, and particularly about NetSquared Local, is that it engenders spaces where digital innovation actualizes the potential of the social web to address critical social problems offline. In the process, it is also deepening and strengthening - rather than weakening or diluting - the relationships and connections the social web affords us.

I had become habituated (albeit reluctantly) to the idea that I needed Twitter, Facebook and an ever-increasing list of social media networks as intermediaries to stay connected to the work and people I was interested in. It would seem that engagement at the predominant social networks is increasingly not optional. Kind of like having a phone and an email account hasn't really been optional for many years.

Yet, while I was getting “connected” to more and more people (hyper-connected), there was also a disturbing sense of the growing lack of depth in these online social relationships. In other words, my network was growing and weakening at the same time. Further diluting the network were the increasingly blurred lines between ego-centric networks (driven by our needs to be social, to entertain and be entertained, etc.) and cause-centric networks (driven by the need to address social issues).

With my large mix of personal and professional connections, Dunbar’s Number would suggest that I had exceeded the cognitive limit of stable social relationships I could sustain or maintain in any meaningful way. I.e. anything past around 150 was a diluted, weak relationship at best.

Having worked in the social benefit sector for several years, I realized the implications of these weakened relationships were not inconsequential. Along with many other reasons that may burst the social media bubble for the sector, is this simultaneous growth and weakening of networks. More critical for the sector is the resulting breakdown of relationships with and within those networks. I’ll dig into this a little deeper in an upcoming blog post.

For now, on a more personal note, it was not surprising that when I signed out of Twitter, Facebook etc., closed all my social media browser windows, I knew exactly where the efforts and people I was interested in were online. They were not just living as Adrien Short says as the web underclass in a digital serfdom at the mercy of social media outlets.

In a world of overcrowded social media spaces, where the depth of social connections may increasingly be coming into question, it is refreshing to be part of the NetSquared community; a community that is empowered to convene locally, share stories and ideas, co-create knowledge, solutions, and translate deep connections and learning online, into tangible projects for real world impact offline.

While all this might take a little more work than setting up a new profile on Google+, I am guessing that building any sustainable and meaningful relationships requires hard work.


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