You don’t have to go back to the dark ages before the Internet to recognize that many problems can arise from hanging out online at the expense of your IRL (in real life) relationships: social awkwardness, a penchant for staying home alone with your cat, your laptop and a box of Oreos, and let’s not forget, living in your ‘pajama’ jeans.
Today, even Millennials are coming around to the idea that there’s more to life than what’s contained within their smartphone screen. However, a large number of people are still under the (misguided) impression that networking online is enough.
I disagree. Somewhat ironically perhaps, given that I’ve run a successful communications agency since 2008 and the majority of what we do takes place online. I stand by my argument, though. Here’s why IRL networking is still important:
3 Reasons Why IRL (In Real Life) Networking Still Kicks Butt
1. You use all your senses.
We’re human, we rely on all our senses to guide us. Even (especially?) our sixth sense or ‘gut feel’, as it’s often called. When we network online our senses are often just spectators on the sidelines. Sure, you can check out a prospective client’s LinkedIn profile. But let’s be honest, we all make a point of putting our best selves forward on that platform. It’s our public résumé, why wouldn’t we?
When you meet someone in person you get a feel for them. There’s either a connection or there isn’t. Now obviously this isn’t foolproof. We’ve all had at least one encounter that proved our judgment to be faulty, right? But this is the exception, rather than the norm.
Conversely, we’ve all connected with someone online who we thought was rude or unfriendly and later met them in person and really liked them. You can’t always tell, so if there’s an opportunity to meet people in the flesh, go for it.
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2. You build your social muscles.
We live in a world where remote is the new norm. However, being able to work from anywhere means we often end up working alone. It’s obviously wonderful to not have to go into an office every day (who wouldn’t want that kind of freedom?), but the downside is that unless we keep our wits about us, we can easily forget how to interact with others.
You might even find yourself making up excuses so you can hang out on the couch watching Grey’s Anatomy instead. This should be avoided at all costs. Being comfortable spending time alone is certainly a character trait worth having, however, it shouldn’t be at the expense of your social alter ego.
3. You inspire creativity.
Nothing happens in a vacuum. You need space to make magic but unless you get out there and mix with other people you’ll have no way of replenishing your well of ideas. Being around other human beings can be wonderfully energizing, you just need to choose the events you attend carefully.
Some events (like those unavoidable business functions) often have a draining effect. This is because the attendees haven’t necessarily chosen to be there, rather they’ve been instructed to attend. Whereas the events (workshops, conferences etc.) you sign up for on your own volition will almost always result in a positive outcome. These events will be where you’ll meet someone and just ‘get’ them. These events will be where you come across potential partners, colleagues, and friends. This is where creativity happens.
A case for both.
There’s no denying that engaging online has its place. The Internet has made it possible for us to meet people in other parts of the world that we never would have met otherwise. For many of us traveling abroad isn’t an option, we have cost constraints and family obligations that don’t allow for it.
In today’s online world, all we need to do to connect with someone on another continent is a computer and the Internet. People are using these tools to earn money, find love and make friends. But as wonderful as all that is, a face to face encounter with a like-minded person can be equally so.
- 4 Ways to Earn The Respect You Deserve As a Woman In The Workplace - April 21, 2017
- 3 Reasons Why IRL (In Real Life) Networking Still Kicks Butt - October 21, 2016