Remember the first personal computers and consoles creeping into our living rooms in the 80s? People used to play video games alone and latter with some friends. I still remember the Street Fighter, Mario Kart and Secret of Mana sessions on the good old Super Nintendo  Nowadays, digital interactions are an integral part of our lives. Yet which value do they add and which risks are associated with them? Let’s look at this phenomenon in an ExperienceZone manner.

Opportunities of digital networks

Quo vadis digitalization? If you’re born before Y2K, you might be equally stunned about the speed digital infused our lives. Today, we´re using online communities to connect, communicate (duh, guess why the words are similar), and interact. Mind LinkedIn’s success story. Also, we’re spending a large amount of time on these platforms. I read that every human being is in average 20 times and in total 20 minutes on Facebook. Recently more than 1 billion people have been on Facebook at the same time. The servers must have been running hot! Great traction stats for Mark Zuckerberg and his gang. By the way: ExperienceZone is an online network too. We’re not striving for the same results though. More below.

So, let’s summarize the advantages of digital platforms:

  1. Information at your fingertips: Online networks give me a lot of information just in time. Facebook tells me that Bob has his birthday tomorrow. Thanks to modern technology, I can draft a personal note beforehand and schedule it to be send out tomorrow. Also, I might be able to copy the event to my calendar and be reminded next year in advance that I can even buy him a present. This feature doesn’t exist yet? Mark, that’s today’s gift for you. My pleasure. Also, I know where Tina is and what she has for lunch (although I might not be sincerely interested).
  2. Efficiency of interaction: If I don’t know or like Bob that much or if I just don’t have time (which is of course never an excuse), I can write “Happy B-Day” on his wall. If some of my other “friends” have birthday on that same day, I can even copy the note and post it on their walls too. That’s the gold standard of time-efficiency. Now, if Bob is impressed by my note (against all odds), he might invite me to his birthday dinner with his spouse Tina. Since I’m living really far away from these guys, I’ll dial in via Skype to the menage a troi and have my own dinner at home during the video conference. Ok, I might exaggerate here, yet these scenario might not be too far off.
  3. Non-binding nature: Yeah, I got 700+ Facebook friends. Quite frankly: I wouldn’t consider most of them as real friends (sorry guys). Most of them I met at places I traveled and we stay in touch since then. Others just added me to their buddy list without ever meeting me. It surely was my handsome profile picture… Joke aside: I accepted requests from strangers just because I was too lazy to ask where we know each other from or feared that I’ve forgotten that we actually met each other yet I just don’t know where and when anymore. Bottom line, it doesn’t hurt to have more or less friends in online networks, since these relationships as well as most content you’re posting is of non-binding nature.

Don’t believe the hype!

But where there’s light, there’s shadow. Online networking can make you addicted without adding any value. Like a rocket-chair it keeps you busy but leads to nowhere. Worst case, you spend too much time in the digital world and get socially isolated in the real one. Hence, here’re my recommendations to manage digital networks effectively:

  1. Which digital networks add value? Think twice about which digital networks you want to be part of. Do you really need a Twitter, Facebook, G+, Pinterest, Instagram etc. account? Think about which ones are aligned to your mission and aims in life? Where are your friends? Which networks represent communities you want to contribute to?
  2. Which people do you want to engage with? Also, think about with whom you want to engage with. Learn from my experiences: Don’t accept all friend requests (of course a picture of a beautiful girl might flatter you and make you press the “accept” button, yet this might be a fake profile). Strive to have a narrow and deep rather than a broad and shallow social network. At ExperienceZone we considered to limit the amount of travel mates (or friends in Facebook lingo) to 30, as we believe that this is the maximum amount of true friends you can have. We might pick this one up again. Also, we strive to have a rather small yet active community of people who really want to make a difference.
  3. How much time you want to spend in the digital world? Writing each other is the most efficient yet ineffective form of communication, whilst face-to-face is the most effective whilst admittedly most inefficient type. But communication is all about effectiveness. Don’t sacrifice it on the altar of efficiency. Set a daily time limit for digital interactions. At ExperienceZone (formerly known as GodBoy), we started with a 30 minutes time limitation for users. Why? We wanted them to spend their time in the real world rather than in the digital life.