Thursday, April 29, 2010

Networks aren't enough; real people matter too

Hump Day
By Brian Cormier
Moncton Times & Transcript
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Editorial section

Last week, I attended an all-day session on social media presented by Mike Kujawski, an Ottawa-based marketing and social media strategist. Without getting into the details of the presentation (you had to pay $400 for that!), I was surprised by one of the first things he told us during the seminar.

For someone who specializes in social media -- in other words communication and networking done online through a computer -- he was just as adamant that it's still essential to connect with nature and with people face to face. You can't -- and shouldn't -- avoid it. You can't -- and shouldn't -- pretend that doing it online is always good enough.

Now, I thought I knew a lot about social media when I went to this seminar. I mean, sheesh, I write column on it, use Twitter and Facebook all the time, and have a couple of blogs with more than 3,000 posts between them. Well, after listening to Kujawksi speak for an entire day, I was left sobbing in the corner of the meeting room, lying on the floor in the fetal position sucking my thumb and crying for my mommy. This guy was good!

And he certainly proved to me in no uncertain terms that the world of social media is huge and that I have a lot to learn.

He also made me feel old . . . very old. I checked out his Facebook profile and discovered that he was born during my first year of university. Where's my rocking chair? Pass me my cane! Turn the television up louder! It's 3 p.m. -- so why isn't supper on the table? And, oh yeah, get off my lawn!

I've been so unbelievably busy lately that I pretty much just have time to toss a can of cat food at the cats when I get home after work and hope they can figure out how to open it before I have to leave the house again for another meeting or event. This time of year is always crazy with work, work and more work -- both paid and volunteer. Fun and leisure haven't been part of my vocabulary for a few weeks.

I've been burning the candle at both ends and wishing the weeks away just to get to a weekend where I could relax, only to find myself just as busy taking care of things that I wasn't able to do during the week, like teaching the cats how to open their own cans of food.

Like many people, I spend a lot of time on the computer. I blog and I spend time on Facebook and Twitter to see what people are up to and to share my own updates and links to interesting things I've found on the Internet. But, as Kujawksi pointed out, I need to remember sometimes that online communication is a part of a larger communication puzzle.

It's vitally important, mind you, but we need to remember that people are still people. We certainly get a grim reminder of that when someone close to us dies or moves away. And we certainly get reminders from Mother Nature. You can be online all you want, but if there's a tornado spinning toward your house, you'd better have the common sense to get offline and hide in the basement, or at least run down the street screaming like a little girl. Not the manliest thing you'll do that day, but it beats getting sucked into a tornado and shot head-first through a tree trunk.

I don't know what it is about April and May. The frenzy is definitely on to get things done before the traditionally slower summer months, when vacations take over the minds of most people. And while I've been so busy lately -- too busy, actually -- there are limits. Don't get me wrong. I like having lots on my plate. I'm used to it and enjoy accomplishing things. I can work reasonably well under pressure, but I've had enough.

Lately, I've been thinking that being busy isn't all it's cracked up to be. I've been running out of one meeting or event early to get to another obligation, not giving my full attention to either one. Saying "yes" to too many people will do that to you. And while it's nice to be of assistance and to feel wanted, sometimes you just need to say, "Sorry, I just can't." There's nothing wrong with that.

If you don't take care of yourself and your time, no one else will, I can assure you of that!

There are many people out there who are too busy -- and by too busy I mean that you're tired and that you're neglecting your own stuff. Of course, if you're doing those things, it also means you have your priorities wrong and aren't planning correctly. Even at your busiest, you should feel a sense of accomplishment and elation versus exhaustion. That means you haven't been working on stuff that really matters. Lately, I certainly feel more exhausted than elated.

Sounds like a change of priorities is in order, including paying closer attention to planning. One of those things I've been neglecting is certainly Mother Nature. Even going for a nice drive in the country is better than nothing! I really love doing that on weekends and have been neglecting that lately. It doesn't have to be for long -- even an hour's drive on country roads around the city is enough to relax me.

I'm not one to dance naked in rivers, but even a nice drive is enough to reconnect a bit with nature if you've been inside in front of a computer screen most of the day. And don't worry, I wouldn't dance naked in a river due to my love of animals. The last time I did that, a moose saw me and ran over to a hunter and screamed, "Shoot me! I'm delicious!"

Yeah, I've been spending way too much time in front of the computer lately. It's time for some fun. But what do to? Hmm . . . maybe I should just Google that.

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