Some Thoughts on Networking in a Networked Age

I recently came across an article titled “Facebook in a Crowd” in the New York Times magazine.  It was written by Canadian writer, Hal Niedzviecki and details the fact that he has nearly 700 Facebook friends but, when he tried to use Facebook Events to plan a party in Toronto and invited every one on his Friends List, exactly ONE person showed up. 

“I would learn, when I asked some people who didn’t show up the next
day, that “definitely attending” on Facebook means “maybe” and “maybe
attending” means “likely not.” So I probably shouldn’t have taken it
personally. But the combination of alcohol and solitude turned my
thoughts to self-pity. Was I really that big of a loser? Or was it that
no one wants to get together in real life anymore?”

Beyond his insights into Facebook as a social medium, why else is this interesting ?  Well, for one thing, I happen to be one of those 700 or so friends of Mr. Niedzviecki although I've never met him in person and he wouldn't know me from a hole in the proverbial ground. 

I added him as a friend maybe a year ago when I went through a phase of trying to find the most famous person who could be reliably proven to actually be the person on Facebook.  (This was inspired by me being added as a friend of “Leslie Neilsen”.) 

I mostly did this by friending a lot of writers I knew from my previous life then looking through their Friends Lists which would often lead to more and more famous writers, actors, musicians or other celebrities. 

And it's not like Hal N. was a total one-off as a “friend” – although we don't know each other in real life, we do share nine friends in common on Facebook.  This includes one other writer who I also don't know in real life but who coincidentally, is actual real life friends with the “mystery friend” in a recent post I did about Facebook.  The rest of Hal's and my common connections are a mixture of writers and publishers, all of whom I do know in real life and very conceivably, if I was hanging out at some place like BookExpo, there would be the possibility that we would be introduced.    

Hal wasn't the most famous person I found on Facebook (that would probably be Dave Bidini or, possibly Gord Downie though I'm not 100% certain it was the real guy.  Oh, and I see Mr. Hip himself has de-friended me.  I'm saddened) but that's not my point.  (Or was it?)  I think that it's simply and ultimately amazing that there is now a way for people to connect with their friends, near and far, people they are only tangentially connected to (again, near or far) and complete strangers who they may still be interested in knowing (or being seen as knowing!) without having to meet that person in real life. 

Why else is this at the front of my mind?  I've been asked to do a presentation for the Sask Library Association in mid-November on “Networking Skills for Librarians”.   Full details are below but you'll note that this isn't part of a conference or a day long workshop or anything like that.  Instead, it's a one-off workshop with me as the lone speaker.  Wow – what pressure!  (But seriously, if you're interested in a road trip to Moose Jaw, why not come out for it?  It's free so what've you got to lose?) 

I'll likely have more thoughts as the workshop draws nearer (and I'll post my Powerpoint if I go that way for my presentation as I suspect I might) but in all modesty, I think this is probably one area that I'm very qualified to speak to.  Whether it's setting up social functions during library school, organizing member nights for the Writers Guild of Alberta or reaching out to make friends with people who are otherwise complete strangers on Facebook (famous or not), I definitely will have lots to say on the topic of “how to network.”  (Irony alert – I think I've mentioned before my distain for the word “networking”.  Hate it.  Hate it, hate it, hate it!”) 

(Oh, and that reminds me of something else – the next “Boo!”ks to Beers social gathering for Regina and area librarians will be on Thursday October 30 at 4:30pm at Beer Bros.  Full details are on Facebook.  As for the workshop, feel free to come out if you're in the area.  We say “Regina and area librarians” but really, the invitation is open.  My only request is that you RSVP on Facebook if you're coming so I know how many spots to reserve.  We've got six already – I'm kicking Hal and his NYT-published ass!)

Networking Skills for Librarians

An educational & social event for Library Staff

Come and learn about improving your professional networking skills, and stay for the refreshments and social time with your peers.

Two locations in the province!
No charge for admission.

•Prince Albert
Presenter: Brenda Tenhold, School Library Consultant
2pm, Fri Nov 14th 2008
Meeting Room #1, John M Cuelenaere Public Library, 125 – 12 Street East. Prince Albert, SK S6V 1B7

•Moose Jaw
Presenter: Jason Hammond, Organization Development Specialist, Regina Public Library
2pm, Thurs Nov 13th 2008
Herb Taylor Room, Moose Jaw Public library, 461 Langdon Crescent
Moose Jaw, SK, S6H 0X6

Please RSVP by Fri. Nov. 7th to the SLA Office:

Presented by the Saskatchewan Library Association Membership Committee

Comments 2

  1. Anonymous wrote:

    Still holding out on jumping on the Facebook bandwagon but I had a very interesting discussion about Facebook friends with a 'real' friend who is also “older”. Our definition of friend (Facebook or otherwise) is someone we've met and know(n) in 'real life' as opposed to her kids (mid 20s – 30) who are perfectly comfortable with the idea of being friends with people they've never met in person and probably never will. A generational divide perhaps? I've been considering what my personal Facebook friend “collection policy” would be (pardon the library analogy)… Maybe I'm just thinking about it too much!
    BTW I'm guessing that 'Facebooking' grates on your nerves the way that using Google as a verb used to drive Chris insane. 😉

    Posted 27 Oct 2008 at 2:56 pm
  2. Anonymous wrote:

    I think it'd be interesting to do a study on the reasons why people *don't* join Facebook. Some people are worried about privacy, some about security (my mom seems to think people could get at her bank account if she joined), some are resisting a trend, some don't like the Facebook convention of everybody being a “friend” with no way to differentiate (I think that's one of their biggest failings yet – I'd love to group people as “library colleagues”, “family members”, “high school friends”, “co-workers”, etc.)
    It's interesting that you use the analogy of a Collection Policy for how you'd obtain friends on Facebook – this is a collection policy that talks back! (What I mean is that there's always that potential weirdness if you don't add someone that you “should” or you reject someone – a co-worker you supervise for instance.)
    Anyhow, I do hope you take the leap. Even if you're not a heavy user, it's a good place to have a presence. (I do the majority of the promotion for our “Books to Beers” social events on Facebook as it's a really easy one-stop place to connect with people. But that also means we miss a lot of people who aren't on Facebook.)

    Posted 02 Nov 2008 at 3:20 pm
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