Social networking has revitalized the long dead art of communication and belonging. Furthermore, social networking has revitalized our community and civic engagement. A few years ago, people believed that the decline of America was inevitable as we would get swept up in a cycle of drugs, violence, and senseless destruction. No one belonged anymore! No one understood how they fit in. We were a world of people passing in the night.

Your best friend in high school is someone you have not seen in years. That guy you went to the bars with every night in college, you might not even remember his name. Who were the people you worked with at your first job. It was 3 jobs and 7 years ago, who can remember anymore. I apologize on Monday morning for making you think back that far, but the reality is that as a society we needed social networking.

What We Were Losing Before Social Networking

When I was in college, one of the best books that I ever read was Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community by Robert Putnam. The book spoke to me about what was going on in America, at a time that I was identifying my political beliefs and looking for ways to make something of myself in the world.

His book stated that the United States had lost it’s sense of civil society, which in turn could have long term negative consequences for independence and freedom. The statistics from how many times we give the finger to other drivers to the number of people who attend community and religious events every week provides a telling example of how as a country we are not as united as we were in the past.

At the crux of his argument, is the idea that in the 1950 and 1960’s a large portion of the country would go bowling together in leagues. Bowling itself is not important, instead the idea that you can connect with people in your community on a regular basis forms the idea that we can connect with people in our community that help form the basis of civic engagement at the heart of a free society. We need these connections to survive as a free and independent people, because these relationships provide the framework for people to control how legislation is passed and laws enforced in our country!

The relationships that we form with our neighbors is called social capital. These connections with others are an asset that boost you further in good times and lift you up in bad times. Politicians, civic leaders, and everyday citizens need social capital to get the people involved in various causes.

Instead, a lot of social capital is lost because of the distant society we live in today. The fact is that you are less likely to give the finger to a neighbor you know and go vote when you care about your community. Bowling was a place where people could learn about both. It is where social capital was born and thrived with your neighbors. This is how any person could become president. It was in the idea that the best of us would rise from the ranks and help everyone else up as well.

Social Networking Communities

Social networking has revitalized the idea of social capital. Today, we can connect with every person we ever knew on Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, and LinkedIn. Additionally, we can see them as well with videos from Youtube and pictures from Flickr and Picasa.

It has revitalized in many people a sense of belonging, because they are no longer a ship passing in the night. We maintain friendships longer, find deeper relationships with distant family members, and make new connections as well. The idea that we are not alone anymore, at least digitally, is keeping everyone more informed about the world and also more connected.

Virtually every person that I ever wanted to stay connected with from every past job and school is connected with me on Facebook. Twitter has created more valuable business connections for me in the past 2 years than in previous 5 years. LinkedIn has allowed me to stay in contact with roughly 70% of the people that I meet at networking events. It all ties in together to keep me more connected with the world.

Social networking is not a cure-all for the lack of community, but it has done wonders for keeping people in contact. This is the reason that I look to use social networking to help my business. I can build it with friends in a place that gives both of us a sense of belonging. In the end that is what community is about, belonging. Do that with your customers, do that with your partners, and do that with your friends, and you will see how the world changes.