Westchester attorney wonders about the depersonalization of social networking

When has technology gone too far and are we on the verge of becoming automatons?  Friends, I think that day has long passed.  Two things happened recently in the same week which got me thinking about how we network business connections – I relocated my office and had to cull through a stack of business cards and I came across an article which alleged business cards are a thing of the past.

In sorting out my voluminous stack of cards, I will readily admit there were cards from people I could not recall; however, most of them had a date and a note on the back, written by me for future reference.  It enables me to contact that person again, even a year after our introduction, and remind them of where and how we met and why I may need their services now.  As a Westchester attorney and a New York  journalist, I meet hundreds of new contacts a year.  Not once has one of those business contacts ever asked me to “save” their info in my cel phone, no matter how “smart” the phone may be.  The only time I am ever asked to save someone’s phone number or email address directly into my phone is in a social setting because we do not generally carry “cards” around to dinners, bars, concerts or parties.

Let’s think about the genesis of the business card for a moment before we forever delete them from our networking resources.  They started back in the 15th and 17th century but it wasn’t until the Victorian era that they truly became an art form.  The Victorians cultivated social skills and the rules of etiquette were taken very seriously.  Victorian calling cards were an elegant reminder of someone’s visit and offered the recipient a reason to follow-up with the card-bearer to further the relationship.  It was about people not only being civil and elegant but about people interacting with other people.  There is nothing personal about texting someone or entering their info into your database.  However, when someone hands me a business card, I can shake their hand; I can look them in the eye; I can tell in that first instant if I want to do business with them in the future.

Cultivating business is all about nurturing relationships and if all we ever do is meet people in cyberspace and on these so-called “social networking” sites we have become nothing more than global idiots.  Social networking sites offer tremendous opportunities to market both small business and larger companies but let’s not allow them to replace the personal connections vital to distinguishing us from a planet of droids.