As we all begin to reflect on the holiday season, as well as look back at the past year, one of the things I have been focusing on is how my network has expanded via social media. I will admit to having had a sheltered upbringing. From the age of 4 to around 10 I lived in suburban New Jersey. After that I lived in rural New Jersey and then way out in the country in Pennsylvania. I had protective parents and most of the traveling we did was for dog shows (that is a whole different post.) College was in a small town called Carlisle, Pennsylvania. After college I lived in my first large city, Philadelphia. There I had my first experience with Indian food (yum) and my first opportunity to work with and spend quality time with people very different from myself. When I moved to Delaware for law school, well that wasn’t a bastion of culture either. As a result, for most of my life, I haven’t had much access to people particularly different, at least on the surface, from myself. And let’s face it; living in Central, Pennsylvania hasn’t improved that access, though it is a surprisingly diverse area in some ways.
Expanding my network
During my foray into social media I have been able to expand my network to include people from countries including England, India, Pakistan, Egypt, France, Spain, and most recently South Africa. It was this last person (who added me on Google+ today) that caused me to write this post. How extraordinary is social media; that someone who has lived a sheltered life has the opportunity to reach beyond the boundaries of a little town and have the ability to communicate with people who have extremely different perspectives based upon growing up in very different locations. How amazing is the role (negative and positive) that social media has played in uprisings in the Arab world, and more recently in the United States.
Social media has really enabled people to expand their worlds in an amazing fashion. It has created the ability for oppressed people to communicate so they can rise up. Yes, it has also created the ability for people to plan negative actions as well, but we have to take the good with the bad.
I wonder; how many of you out there have had the opportunity to see their worlds expanded, as I have, through connecting with so many extraordinary people online?
An impact on business?
The connections I have forged haven’t just expanded my world, they have expanded my business. I have helped clients, who were interested in expanding into an international market, take advantage of my own international social media connections, to find the type of clients they were seeking. I have had people from other countries contact me out of the blue looking for referrals, which I happily provided. I have begun to learn how to interact with cultures I never before would have had the opportunity to communicate with, so I can develop knowledge about cultural faux pas and be certain to avoid them. I have also taught people from other cultures how to behave (and how not to behave) around a modern, American woman.
Social media goes far beyond the ability to connect with family and friends. It has expanded the business world beyond belief and enabled people who are willing to accept random friendships from people they don’t know to make all sorts of new connections.
Of course there are risks in accepting friends you don’t know on social media. I have over a thousand friends on Facebook now. But there are controls including lists on Facebook, circles on Google+, and privacy settings on both. And of course, should you accept a friend that doesn’t work out, the option to unfriend them is always there.