Today’s world is one in which nearly every individual can connect at a moment’s notice to more people and information than ever before. Millions of people “follow” relative strangers on Twitter. We cruise YouTube savoring tidbits of other people’s lives (not to mention adorable videos of cats). Facebook, LinkedIn, Ning – from platform to platform, millions of people reconnect with people from childhood, stay in touch with long lost relatives and foster relationships with people with whom they’ve never spent a moment face-to-face.
While wonderful on many levels, there’s a casualty from this casual connectedness – mentorship.
Our digitally saturated social web may give the appearance that we are more connected and communicative, but as it turns out the opposite is more likely the case. Over the last several years as connections on social networks multiplied, studies began to appear citing evidence that in spite of seeming to be more connected, these persistent connections were not necessarily fostering deeper relationships. As recently as the spring of 2009, further research reiterated the point, indicating that while some close connections can be and are maintained by technology, for the most part what results is a loosely knit web of weak-tie relationships.
We may share information and learn tidbits from a wider array of people, but the deep sense of connection and guidance that arises between mentor and mentee requires something more than a passing handshake or sharing of a daily status update.
Don’t get me wrong, I believe strongly in the power of social networks as a medium for connecting. Further, I don’t cotton to the belief that these more loose connections are bad as a general rule. However, when it comes to really digging into a connection and providing deep, personalized support – whether for business or personal – I truly believe there must be a component of face-to-face interaction at the outset to establish the true, human rapport critical for mentorship.
Once engaged, these on-line platforms can then be used quite powerfully to augment and expand on already established mentorship connections, but in our seemingly insatiable desire to do reach out and connect with as many people as possible, we must remember that sometimes the old-fashioned way is a good thing.
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