A recently posted YouTube video by a boyish Gary Turk attracted 15 million international views in quick time. Turk is not a public figure and his five-minute message was performed in mostly rhyming couplets.
In case you haven’t seen it, here’s a taste:
“I have 422 friends, and yet I am lonely.
I speak to them daily, but none of them know me.
The media we call social is anything but,
If when we open our computers, our doors we do shut.”
Okay, it’s not Shakespeare. But it struck an immediate chord with millions of people around the world who, ironically, made use of a social media tool to watch it.
I was one of them. What it said to me was something I haven’t quite put into words before about the difference between digital networking and human engagement.
For many people, the urgent questions these days are often ones about how many ‘likes’ I’m scoring, how many ‘followers’ I can count, or how many ‘friends’ I attract.
I have to confess to being more interested in questions about ‘who’ and ‘what for’. Who am I connecting with and why am I doing it? If the answers are about instant gratification or a purposeless amassing of numbers, it might pay us to think again about what we’re doing.
That doesn’t mean we don’t engage fully in digital networking at AHRI. We have two active Twitter handles, a lively Facebook page, in excess of 40,000 LinkedIn members who are connecting in our discussion forums, and our dynamic new HRM online media platforms.
Let me hasten to add we are very interested in looking at the magnitude of numbers and the level of interaction our digital networking stimulates. We are keen to get to audiences through our members, who are engaged in building the body of knowledge and experience that amount to exemplary HR.
But those audiences are not a substitute for the audiences totalling about 6,500 each year who come to our conferences, seminars and network forums around the country, or who participate in our mentoring program.
And while the 3,000 people who attended last month’s AHRI National Convention is a much smaller number than those we communicate with on our online media, that event, by its nature, enables personal connections that are of a very different quality than the virtual interactions on digital networking sites.
By being at an event, whether it’s on a grand or an intimate scale, most of us are more mindful of living in the present. The people are there with us as speakers or as fellow participants in the act of listening and looking. And we can talk to them and compare notes with them in the moment over a coffee or a glass of wine. We slow down. We engage.
So forgive me if I return to the words of the young Turk:
“We are at our most happy with an experience we share,
But is it the same if no-one is there?”