Under the influence of Networks

Online networking has enabled us to communicate with more people than previously, and brought us under the influence of more streams of thought. However, having been a boarder at school and university, I sense a similar kind of influence in the dialogues that take place, the influence of the noisy.

In the early days of my working life I encountered a rotation of colleagues who brought with them their varied life experiences, attitudes and beliefs. In the pub we would opine, debate, and even bore one another, adjusting the thrust of our arguments according to our needs to impress or keep the peace. In the process, I for one learned much, and it was relatively easy to fit in or not.

Since becoming a solo-preneur, I have not had the same opportunities to share experiences with as many people as before, or in the same way. I turned to networking to make up the difference.

Breakfast and lunch networks have not appealed, because I was not comfortable with weekly commitments to be with the same small bunch of people, only a minority of whom might be on my wavelength. Sharing those concerns with others at the meetings I have attended, I realised that I was not alone in my views, although others felt it would be politically incorrect to say such things.

I looked at online networking, not just the groups I had joined, but several other groups as well. The patterns were fairly consistent. In most groups on LinkedIn, Facebook, Sunzu and elsewhere there seemed to be two bands of members: those who joined but were not very active, probably because they were fully engaged in their own working environments, and those who needed the network for their interactions.

The latter group is much the smaller of the two, and contains a hard core of vociferous members who dominate the forums. An even smaller number of that group will be found active in more than one platform.

Let me stress, at this point, that my research has not been scientifically conducted, and this is a subjective impression. What I have found (felt?) is a tendency for a certain set of values, attitudes and practices to dominate, in much the same way as occurred in my days as a boarder, driven by the active few.

No surprises there, as group dynamics are pretty much the same anywhere. But it is worth being aware that the ideas, attitudes and influences in those network forums are largely those of the noisiest members. We could find ourselves influenced by a small number of people whose ‘norms’ may not be universal.

It may explain why some people prefer to stay out of forum discussions, and others avoid online networking altogether. So what’s the answer? Clearly no one can be prescriptive, and market forces will determine which networks succeed, but I like the idea of a collaborative network, where ideas and information are shared for mutual support, in a non-combative way.

That would be a good influence.


Filed under: public speaking