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Why we need the anti-social social network

August 16, 2011

While we have more social networking sites now, what I am consistently hearing is that people’s meaningful networks are on the decline. We are back in touch with high school friends on Facebook and we know where professional acquaintances are working from LinkedIn, but our ability to meaningfully connect with our true peers – people at our career level and in our professional area – is on the decline for many people.

Here are a couple of stories to illustrate this point. In recent conversations I’ve had with hundreds of senior IT people, many have shared that their meaningful professional peer network is typically 4-6 people. One very senior Information Security guy at Aetna recently told me that there are 22 people he needs to be in contact with and yet he is only in contact with 6 of them. An SVP at Bank of America told me that in the ten or so years he has been working at the bank, he’s been so busy with his job that his professional network has been on the decline – and now just about all of his professional contacts are from BofA.

Enter the anti-social social network. Not a social network that promotes online reunions and meaningless conversation, but a very purpose-specific professional social network where real insight is gained.

The anti-social social network brings together a group of people who have something meaningful in common and because of that, they can help each other. They come together for a specific purpose – to solve problems together.  It is the ultimate resource if, like me, one of your primary ways of learning is from other people.

The anti-social social network is the place where people at our personal career level and in our specific profession (all of whom have been vetted and with no one trying to sell anything) get together – whether virtually online, on the phone or in person, in order to solve problems, share insights based on experience, and save each other time (e.g., how long would it take otherwise to get 20 or 30 well vetted peers to tell you the answer to the question you have to present to your boss next week?) Contributing provides recognition for professional expertise that we often don’t have the bandwidth or inclination to go make happen for ourselves (we are the anti-social lot, after all).

We don’t need a million anti-social social network “friends.” Just a few dozen good ones.

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