Is Social Media Really Sociable?

I grew up in the 50s through the 60s and into the mid-70s in Chicago, in a group named the Baggers. I strongly believe that most of my friends who became very successful business executives, teachers, police officers, and owners of companies achieved their success because of the social skills and the relationships they formed within the group.

I've asked them about this over the years, and they agree. We are all convinced that we learned these social traits in our teens, and just by hanging out. We were also fortunate not having grown up with the electronic tools people have today, because we had to interact with others and learn the value of street smarts. We had to use our relationships and interpersonal skills to help create our futures.

We worked and played as a team, won and lost, and experienced life. We worked at being friendly and establishing friends. We learned how to socialize, negotiate, communicate, and read body language. Sizing someone up was an art as well. And we figured out who we shouldn't hang with, who the BS-ers were, and who to trust — skills that contributed to future success.

In our conversations, we also feel concerned that today's parents are not encouraging their kids to go out on their own and make it. That many young people are getting too comfortable staying home and interacting via games, texting, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube. They have not experienced how to interact with others in social situations, which will eventually hurt them in business. In my opinion, these social media tools are another excellent communication tactic like email, direct mail, PR, and ads.

But are these great tools going to replace being sociable — what we consider to be essential life skills? Again social media is all the rage now and its impact is life changing and I personally use all these channels to be more efficient and market {complink 577|Avnet Inc.}. But is it really social? I don't mean in the sense of staying in touch or being nice or courteous to people, I mean sociable… interacting.

I've concluded the word “social” should be removed from “social media” and the whole thing should be changed to “digital media” or “emedia.” What are your thoughts?

32 comments on “Is Social Media Really Sociable?

  1. Barbara Jorgensen
    June 6, 2012

    You raise some good questions, Al. I personally find digital media and communication to be exceedingly easy and convenient, but that bothers me sometimes. It's easier to avoid someone or say 'no' to something in an e-mial than on the phone or in person. The fact that our kids would rather text than call has significance as well. We miss verbal cues and facial expressions in this digital age. Just becuase something is easy doesn't mean it's the best way to do things.

  2. Ariella
    June 6, 2012

    @Barbara that gets me, too, that my kids would rather text than call. They also prefer email and chat to actually using their voices. 

    June 7, 2012

    I guess it all depends on your frame of reference.  Ask a 50 year old and she would agree with you.  Ask a 15 year old and he would disagree.  Mind you ask any 15 year old anything and they will always disagree with you 😉

  4. SteveCummins
    June 7, 2012


    Great points. This debate will no doubt run on and on. But in terms of how we name it, I'm a firm beleiver in “Digital Marketing” for two reasons:

    1) I agree – its' not really “social”, at least. not as we traditionally think of social

    2) It's easier to get funding and corporate buy-in for a “Digital Marketing” strategy compared to a “Social Media plan”. The first sounds like it could generate revenue, the latter sounds like we're just “chatting”!

    In my marketing team, we've trained ourselves to talk “Digital” not “Social”

    Also, thanks for all your great work with BMA last year!

  5. Barbara Jorgensen
    June 7, 2012

    @Steve: Thanks for articulating something that I've been feeling lately: the monetization of social media (or lack thereof). I read an article entitled something like “What are 900,000 'likes' really worth?” It was, of course, about Facebook, and I'm not surprised that the compnay is having a tough time translating views into dollars. The same problem cropped up during the dotcom boom. Although that doesn't explain Google's success…?

  6. Ariella
    June 7, 2012

    @Barbara That's exactly what what made GM withdraw its Facebook advertising and what may have made the stock price fall.

  7. Cryptoman
    June 7, 2012

    Hi Al,

    I really liked your post. You have highlighted very valid points in terms of where the young people are heading with their 'key tapping' socialisation sessions.

    I just wanted to express my opinion on the professional life side of things you have talked about.

    I don't think the key tapping teenagers will necessarily suffer in terms of employment considering the new trends in how people work these days. Nowadays, people are able to get employed and earn a living without even meeting their employers face to face. There are many jobs that are performed online from the comfort of one's home. The only thing one needs to do to keep such jobs is to deliver up to the expected standard and on time. Nobody expects you to be an interactive individual, the employer does not care how you look, how you talk and whether you are a sociable person or not. I am sure in the future with the increasing number of such jobs, many of the unsociable teenagers of today will be able to earn a living by remaining chained to their computer desks.

    However, the need for people who have social and communication skills will always be sought after. Given the trends you have mentioned, supply for such people will not be much and hence their value will be higher. This is why the sociable teenagers of today will truly excel. Such people will be the drivers and the brains of businesses in the future. They will be the decision makers and the ones who run the big shows in business. No matter how the technology transfers the world we live in, the physical handshake will always remain as the ultimate deal maker. Mutual trust is not something you can easily build online or purely digitally. Human interaction is essential for that.

  8. bolaji ojo
    June 7, 2012

    Speaking of social media and children, a father recently admitted in a blog that he let his children down by allowing them to join Facebook before they were 13. I found the story interesting, though, I have to confess the most interesting part was when the father asked his now 14 years old daughter about being on Facebook:

    Here's the exchange:

    I ask my younger daughter, Riley, 14, for her thoughts on keeping pre-teens off Facebook.

    “I don't think anybody should use Facebook,” Riley, a high-school freshman, said. All you really do is sit there, she explains, and look at things that other people are doing.

    What? Why do you use it then?

    “I'd be weird if I didn't use it,” she said, “because everybody uses it.”

    Click the following to read the full story: “When it comes to Facebook I let my kids down”
  9. Eldredge
    June 7, 2012

    One of the dangers that I perceive with social media is the ease with which people are willing to provide important personal information. People quickly lose sight of the fact that it is not a private medium for communication.

  10. Eldredge
    June 8, 2012

    With reagard to sociability….I find that there can be a big difference in the way I interact in person versus by eMedia. Texting and e-mail tends to give us a distance, and sometimes a sense of anonimity, that tends to reduce our social graces.

  11. Susan Fourtané
    June 8, 2012

    Hi, Bolaji 

    I like what that parent wrote; I also like the way he is educating his daughters by really educating them instead of keeping them off what is going on in the world. Parents are the first educators, and neither Facebook not the goverment or anyone else can tell parents how to educate their children if they are doing a good job. 

    “I'd be weird if I didn't use it,” she said, “because everybody uses it.” 

    Even saying that the 14 year-old sounds mature, and reflects the kind of open communication she has with her parents.  


  12. Susan Fourtané
    June 8, 2012


    “Texting and e-mail tends to give us a distance, and sometimes a sense of anonimity, that tends to reduce our social graces.”

    No, I don't agree. If I upload my photo and use my name all over the Web when I use social media I don't have any anonimity, and I don't believe my interaction with people in social media reduces my “social graces”, as you say. 


  13. Susan Fourtané
    June 8, 2012

    Hi, Cryptoman

    Yes, nicely put. 

    Just one remark: unsociable and sociable teenagers have existed since the beginning of humanity, centuries before the existence of any devices, social media, or technologies that today people like blaming as the responsibles for anything, including the existence of unsociable teenagers. 


  14. Susan Fourtané
    June 8, 2012


    “Mind you ask any 15 year old anything and they will always disagree with you ;-)”

    Maybe that's because most of the adults seem to have forgotten that they were 15 once. 😉 

    What depends on the frame of reference? I don't believe age matters as much as common sense matters. MInd you, I have talked with very sensible 15 year-olds, and with some 50 year-olds that well, they don't even seem to know why they exist. 

    More than age I would consider time and space. It's not the same being a 15 y/o in 2012 that in the 90s, 80s, 70s, 60s, 50s, 40s, 30s, 20s, 10s, or 1800s. This is precisely what people don't seem to understand. 


  15. Susan Fourtané
    June 8, 2012

    Ariella, Barbara 

    I also prefer text, email, and chat rather than call. Does that put me in the same box with your kids? 🙂 


  16. Ariella
    June 8, 2012

    @Susan Personally, I  like email if I want to convey some information without bothering someone at a time that may be inconvenient. However,  if I want to be certain that the person gets my message, I am more likely to call. I don't like texts, which I find have the intrusive character of phone calls — demanding immediate response — without the courtesy of actually speaking to someone. However, introverts are said to prefer written communication to spoken (in part because writing allows more time to gather one's thoughts and frame the words more exactly), which could be another reason some people favor email and texts. 

  17. bolaji ojo
    June 8, 2012

    Susan, Sorry to disappoint you but you still don't completely fit in with the “kids” in social media and communication use. Yes, they do chat and they prefer texting but e-mail? That's so 1990s as far as kids are concerned. Please don't leave them voice mail either because they won't check since texting is faster and they can quickly decide whether or not to ignore your message.

    I would dive deeper into the differences between “us” and “kids” but won't because each time we adopt their latest preferences they switch on us and move on to the next, next thing!

  18. Barbara Jorgensen
    June 8, 2012

    Good point Susan–the terms “social” and “teenager” don't belong in the same sentence. Back in my day, the coolest thing in the world was a phone in your room, preferably with your own phone number. (A “Princess” phone sent the average female tween into orbit.) If it isn't texting, it would be something else.

    I think the difference between our use of texting or voice is it is more judicious, as you and Ariella point out.

  19. t.alex
    June 8, 2012

    We have been talking about Facebook all the time, and the bad sides of it. How about professional ones like Linkedin. Of course Linkedin recently had a bad reputation of retrieving personal information from their iPhone app, and exposed millions of user passwords. Other than that, Linkedin is pretty good site isn't it?

  20. saranyatil
    June 11, 2012

    Speech eases communication and i personally feel we can deliver our thoughts in a crisp manner. I consider chatting waste of time, meeting them or giving them a call will finish what you have to convey.

  21. mfbertozzi
    June 11, 2012

    Well, speaking for my self, I can tell you I like your approach, even for major social services, at least for now, main understanding is not to provide full email plat, but the integration with. This point raises, in my opinion, an additional topic. It has been proven companies which have adopted socials, have intensified messages exchanged by introducing virtual (false) indentities (or followers). Similar risks are present by using email, so the feeling is social is good, but how do we trust digital identities from endusers perspective?

  22. mfbertozzi
    June 11, 2012

    I believe on one hand you are right, tech interaction “keeps” away people, but on the other hand, it could represent a good step forward. For giving you an example, several tech companies have adopted socials for improving customers support services. Focusing on this sector, we could say everybody is interested in having near real updates on how is requested is going to elaborate , then I believe socials services sound really good for that.

  23. Ariella
    June 11, 2012

    @t.alex That all depends on whom you ask. Some people recently boasted on Twitter that they zapped their LI profiles because they felt they gained nothing from a presence there. On the other hand, some say that LI generates more leads and business connection for them than any other site. I used to be a bit  more involved on LI groups than I am now because most of what interests me that I'd like to get feedback on, I share on Google+.

  24. t.alex
    June 15, 2012

    Well i believe for Linkedin to gain something we may need to make the profile nice and presentable, and of course spend a bit of time exploring with the connections, be it friends or colleagues.

  25. Ariella
    June 16, 2012

    @t.alex I don't know. I do keep my profile updated, and, as I said, I used to be more involved. But I didn't get any job offers out of it. I did happen to connect to a freelance job prospect on Facebook. That happened because someone posted a question asking for a title for a cookbook. My suggestion was the winner. Though all I was to get out of that was a copy of the book, as it turned out the cookbook needed some sections written and editing — services I do offer.  

  26. Al Maag
    June 29, 2012


  27. Al Maag
    June 29, 2012

    good point, teens have not been that perfect…ever

    but Im really referring to 20-25's

  28. Al Maag
    June 29, 2012

    well said thanks

  29. Al Maag
    June 29, 2012

    fully agree, digital not socail

  30. Al Maag
    June 29, 2012

    funny…or drank the wrong colore koolaid

  31. milesroces
    October 3, 2012

    There's a study that only 1% of sales were influenced by social media. Most online marketing tried social media marketing for more market exposure. I think this would be an extended use for Link Marketing since social media is becoming an everyday tool for e-commerce sites.

  32. Barbara Jorgensen
    October 3, 2012

    I'm all over the map on social media's influence on buying. You hear all the time about a YouTube video showing a product exploding (possibly from misuse) giving the product a bad rep. I also don't tune in to social media for advertising (I get enough of that already). So where does this leave business users? Today, I'm back at square 1: social is social and business is business. Mixing the two is getting too confusing.

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