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Be Social


I was a cast away as a kid—the last one to be picked for the softball teams; the one who spent lots of time alone reading; great with focused concentration, but given to making statements that got me into trouble or hurt others.  Guess what?  I became an engineer.  But, that’s not the end of the story.  To advance in the business world, I had to learn to be social.
250 years ago, it took weeks and months to cross the ocean in a ship with sails.  Governors of colonies were left to rule as they saw fit for years before anyone even knew what was going on.  Written letters were used to capture our thoughts and convey them many days later to loved ones and colleagues.  People joined together in towns and enjoyed festivals with traveling minstrels.  Social was mostly about having fun when you were not working.  Work was work, and it was hard labor for most.
100 years ago, steam ships allowed people to cross the ocean in days.  Trains moved people and freight;  commercial air travel had started;  cars were numerous.  The telephone was invented and social took on a slightly different context.  People could visit face-to-face, even if they lived far apart.  They could talk with someone over the phone, but losing the sense of body language and facial expressions that go with communications.
50 years ago, television was popular and we sat around in living rooms, mostly with our family, to vicariously live our lives through images in a box.  Communications dwindled as we stared at the TV and cautioned others to be quiet so that we could hear what was being said before the laugh lines that instructed us to laugh.
25 years ago, cell telephones and e-mail were already available.  Now we could talk with each other from anywhere and we could easily leave a message.  Pagers were used by many to allow someone to interrupt us in the middle of any opportunity we had for face-to-face socialization.  We were important if we got a page and had to stop socializing and rush back to work.
10 years ago, the smart phone and very capable gaming systems came into vogue.  Now we could ignore everyone around us as we focused on getting to the next level in a game, using the latest app, or checking what was happening in sports or in the news.  Now, what happened half-way around the world affected us within hours.  The recent earthquake in Nepal had people responding and praying within hours.  Our social consciousness has become broader, even if we don’t personally know the people.  Our conscience is now concerned about the welfare of the everyone on the planet at all times.
Less than 10 years ago, Twitter and Facebook started.  Socialization technology has allowed revolutions to foment, people to en masse in public areas in minutes.  We’ve returned to pictures and movies with the capabilities of FaceTime, Skype, Pinterest.  But, now we don’t stare, we share.  We talk and text about what we see.
So, to return to that cast away kid lacking in social skills.  I learned, over time, and with many books and training classes, the importance of communicating with people often, fully, carefully—in writing, in pictures, in recorded movies, in presentations, and, most importantly, in person.  Yes, I still make gaffs that are tremendous at times.  I still fumble to find the right words that won’t make others chafe.  I, literally, have trouble getting the words out clearly some times.  But, every business needs constant, continuous, consistent communications among the workers, from the workers upwards to management, and from management to everyone in the company, to suppliers and to customers.
Technology changes how we socialize, but not our need for it.