Author’s Note: This article was written in March 2009 but its message continues to be relevant today…..and I am much more involved on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest and others….

Social media is growing at an exponential rate.  A person could spend their entire day on social networking sites.  You might know someone who does.  The proponents of social media say the advantages gained by connecting people online far outweigh any potential disadvantages.  Opponents suggest the opposite.  What do you think?

My Social Media Growth

I’ll confess… I love technology.  I’ve always been fascinated by computers and the Internet.  Years ago, I was an early adopter of new technology, but lately have been more cautious.  I didn’t jump into social media right away, although I read about it and was curious.  It took some friends touting Facebook before I joined, and then even took some more time before became a routine poster.

If you’re on Facebook, then you know that it’s a sort of “6 degrees of separation” friend connector.  I have a lot of Facebook friends, but many of my “friends” are friends of friends of friends.  You start with people you know, and your friends network expands outward, connecting you to a broader and broader “circle of friends.”

The Conscious Bridge website has led me into jumping more deeply into social media networking.  All the expert advice that I’ve received in growing the blog says that you need to leverage Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.  You need to go to other people’s blog sites whose topics relate to yours and leave postings… you need to grow a “network” of like-minded people.

Initially I wasn’t convinced of how Twitter could be beneficial.   The concept of “following” people and being “followed” seemed strange.  Even after signing up, I didn’t find it as intuitive as Facebook for locating friends.  And, I’m still not connected to a lot of my everyday friends in Twitter.  However, I have discovered that this service is growing a new network of friends without the friendship’s origin being in “the real world.”  Following the advice a couple of books, I have used search features such as “search.twitter.com” to make new friends.  Interesting thing about twitter is that you can search the “tweets” of everyone (unless they specifically closed them to their followers only).  So take a phrase that represents your interests (for example, “spiritual evolution”), search tweets that contain that phrase, and very quickly you are scanning people around the world who are talking about what interests you.  Open their page, read their bio, if they sound interesting… “follow them.”  If they say something that you take note of, reply to them.  Next thing you know, you’re making connections.

Are We Really Connecting?

I’ve heard some people say that social media sites actually prevent us from connecting with other people.  The argument they make is that the time spent online reduces the time spent directly connecting with other people.

I’ve heard others say that the friendships and networking created online are superficial.  They say, how can you really know someone that you’ve never met in person, or only have minimal personal interaction with off-line?  We show our online persona to the world, which may not be a complete picture of who we really are.  Similarly, the people we meet online are only showing us what they want us to see.

Another concern I’ve heard expressed is that the connections we make online are only with people who think like we do.  There is a self reinforcing aspect to hearing others who say the things we say.  If everybody we interact with believes like we do, then we start believing that what we think is “right” without consideration of other points of view.

An Optimistic Viewpoint

I obviously tend to be an optimist.  I truly believe the rise of social media sites is serving humanity.  However, like anything in life, if taken to an extreme, it can have a detrimental effect.  I love coffee and consider it part of the high quality of my life, but if I drink nothing else I would be one nervous person.

Yes, you can spend too much time on social marketing sites.  Yes, it can preclude you from face-to-face interactions.  Yes, it can insulate you to only interacting with like-minded people.

But on the other hand, you are connecting with more and more people.  Your interactions begin expanding outward to people all around the planet.  The world begins to shrink.

The interactions with new people, even if identified as being similar to you, expand your horizons as they don’t think “exactly” like you.  You are introduced to new ideas, new concepts, and new resources that you may never have heard about.

I have also found that Facebook has reconnected me to old friends and allowed us to catch up with each other on our lives.  We may have grown in different directions through the years, but we still find a bond that connects us.

I believe that humanity is continuously evolving in a positive direction.  We may not always take the most direct route, but the overall direction is towards growth, higher degrees of complexity, and greater levels of cooperation.  New technology has the ability to distract us, but also the ability to serve our evolution.  I truly believe that the rise of social networking media is serving humanity in their awakening to the truth of their interconnectedness and interdependence.  May we all affirm that the technological interconnectedness, which gives rise to the global brain also serves to grow our global heart.

Mark

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Check out all of Mark Gilbert’s books—available at Amazon. Click here to visit his Author Page. This includes his recent one Our Spiritual Rights and Responsibilities. In this book, he offers what he suggests are the 5 basic rights we all possess by virtue of our being these spiritual beings on planet Earth — and our 2 responsibilities we all hold in relation to one another! Check it out!