Social Media Isn’t Social

By Al Maag, CEO

From hanging out in a gang to executive . . . lessons learned.

Eight years ago, before retiring as chief communications officer of Avnet Inc., a $27 billion Phoenix-based technology distributor, I was asking fellow employees to begin using social media to share our company stories and activities to enhance our brand.

We came up with guidelines and dipped our toe in the water. Now, I look back, and I might have created a false sense of accomplishment. Because as time went on, I wanted them to get off Facebook, Twitter and writing too many emails and talk to people to balance their life and the internet.

You’d be a fool not to be using technology, but social-media connections can’t replace true feelings, sharing stories and the fun of being with people. The key to career and life success lies in face-to-face interactions with others. Staying at your desk all the time will accomplish nothing.

At 69, I have kept in contact with my “neighborhood gang” for more than 50-60 years. Approximately 20 of us see each other twice a year at a summer golf outing and Christmas luncheon. A few of our interactions are through social media, but most are in person or by phone. Can you believe it, five plus decades later, still seeing each other?

Between them are teachers, police officers, business people, and owners of companies. Moreover, all agree that the basis for their successes is the ability to connect with people. It’s a story about how we all survived and thrived without technology.

It’s an important message for all ages, from the businessman to the student glued to their phones. I urge people to “just get off the phone and stop wondering about the next post they might miss.”

I wrote a book on this subject “Social Media Isn’t Social,” about my concern for some Millennials (and now some adults) and how they are missing out on true socializing. I go crazy at sporting events and concerts watching people looking at their phones instead of enjoying being in the moment. On a few occasions, fathers have saved their kids from batted balls.

My friends and I all learned to be friendly, funny and sociable by hanging out. Otherwise, we would be home alone or just get beaten up when we did surface. We had our usual spots like the school and bowling alley to hang out, and when you saw one of us, there was a dozen. We went to parties, dances, played sports and got into trouble . . . together. We laughed, argued and even fought a bit. However, we got through it all and always had each other’s back.

Today, too many folks get by too easily by staying home and playing electronic games or browsing the internet to see what their friends are doing. Sadly, too much outing and bullying are done without seeing the whites of the eyes of your victims.

Hell, get off your butt and do something, not look at a phone. Don’t let SIRI be your best friend.

Parents need to let their kids hang out. While it may seem safer to keep them in the house and on the computer, parents need to show their children the thrill of getting to know each other, being engaged and interacting in Scouts, clubs or teams.

When I look at resumes, it’s vital that the candidate be well rounded. I look for them being on teams, involved in the community or military service for example.

Make no mistake; I love social media. I have seen what folks are doing that I would not typically be in touch with and pleased to see photos of good friends and family. I use it to stay in touch with my grammar school class, clients, foundation supporters and softball friends. However, I also want people to find a balance and use it to their best potential.

When it comes to business, companies should set guidelines for social-media use and etiquette. Employees uphold the values and image of a company, and corporations should give employees the tools to do it. There needs to be a trust there.

My three tips on social media use:

  • Get Out. Everyone needs to interact with his or her surroundings and get engaged in life. This means talking to the people one meets, and going the extra mile to connect with them. Whether it’s helping one’s community, playing a sport, or just hanging out with friends; the meaningful connections improve quality of life.
  • Use it. Social media isn’t a demon to be feared. It is a great marketing and networking tool with infinite possibilities. The key to the meaningful use of social networking time is to follow the right people who will stimulate insightful and creative thoughts.
  • Find balance. To get the best of both worlds, know when to shut off. Putting the phone away for dinner, a lunch meeting or at a party brings one closer to the people around them. Use the phone for photos and videos to capture the moment. The results are more lasting and meaningful connections, more opportunities and success.