Not long ago I was asked by a young man about what he should be thinking about as he started his career in the business world. We talked about a lot of things, but more than anything I emphasized the need to network with his professional contemporaries. I recommended he join some industry groups, attend conferences, and basically start to interact with different people in his industry. But I tend to believe young people shy away from such personal interaction and instead prefer the anonymity of the various social networking facilities on the Internet, like Facebook, MySpace, and others. Most young people are familiar with these facilities from High School and College and use them to send messages, flirt, spread humor, rumors and spam, and harass people. You need not accurately identify yourself with such facilities, which means you can cause a great deal of trouble for others if you are so inclined.

There are also several social networking tools for professionals, such as LinkedIn, Plaxo, PerfectBusiness, ZoomInfo, and many others. They may not have the same robust facilities as found in Facebook and MySpace, nor the popularity, but they tend to attract the more serious minded person interested in their career and profession. People tend to more clearly identify themselves as well and, as such, there is less shenanigans associated with them. Nonetheless, anyone can register as a user and create false identities if they want to and abuse the system. Thanks to the cloak of anonymity as provided by the Internet, clods tend to disrupt the harmony of such Internet groups, thereby diminishing their usefulness. As an aside, I find it interesting that people will say things on the Internet they would never dare say to you face-to-face, which is why I no longer engage anyone on the Internet who doesn’t properly identify themselves. No, I don’t want to hear from anyone with a bogus handle for a name, particularly those based on some medieval nonsense. Like I said, clods.

These Internet services may be nice for sending messages and disseminating news, or for bringing people of common interests together, but they are certainly not a substitute for eye contact, a handshake, and the spoken word; they are most definitely not a substitute for personal interaction. As I have mentioned for quite some time, due to our heightened emphasis on technology I believe we are seeing a decline in the socialization skills of our young people. Instead of meeting and interacting with others, they are more inclined to hide behind a keyboard which I consider rather unfortunate. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to get to know someone’s interests, ethics, integrity, knowledge, and personal background by computer. To this end, I discussed with my young friend such things as how to properly do an introduction, how to make light conversation, how to develop contacts, how to dress for industry functions, even table manners and how to socially drink at such functions. Basically, I encouraged him to brush up on his people skills, not his computer skills.

Such is my Pet Peeve of the Week.

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the field. He can be reached at [email protected]

For a listing of Tim’s Pet Peeves, click HERE.

Copyright © 2009 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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