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When Social Media Drives Authentic Collaboration

12.30.2013
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I fully admit, I’m a rampant Facebook user. Like a badge of honor, I can claim that I created my account way back on Dec. 17, 2004, during my junior year at Kansas State, when access was still limited to those with a .edu email address and it was still called The Facebook.

Original Facebook homepage

Now, I use it mostly to share photos of my kids with relatives and for quoting my favorite movie lines. And sharing autocorrect fails.

Of course, I’ve gone through the process most Facebook early adopters have gone through: Signing up for every group — “Kansans with last names that start with A who also own dogs” group! — and finding every possible acquaintance I’ve ever had and adding them to my friends list — hello, guy I couldn’t stand in high school, sure I’ll confirm you as a friend — only to drastically weed that trash out after seeing one too many inane political rants or pictures of cats.

For now, I cling to my social media networks because, after that weeding out process, it’s just a part of my life.

But what about the next generation? What about the people who were just a few years old when Facebook, and then Twitter, arrived on the scene? The ones that have no idea what MySpace is all about (I have a friend who refers to MySpace as the abandoned amusement park of the Internet). Or the ones who will never understand how fun/creepy AIM could be.

And, truthfully, what about the people like me who are starting to have serious doubts about keeping up with the social media time-suck and are considering quitting cold turkey? Especially with the announcement that Facebook is starting to allow auto-play advertising videos, I’m guessing more and more people will cut the ol’ FB out of their lives.

I came across this article recently, from my Twitter feed, no less, that details why Millennials — defined in this context as 13- to 17-year-olds — are ditching Facebook with increasing frequency.

I find this quote from the article perhaps the most revealing, from Duquesne University grad student Jordan Moore: “‘A lot of the people I am connected with I no longer talk to,’ he says, calling Facebook a ‘soapbox’ and ‘diary’ for people to promote their opinions and frustrations, rather than to actually communicate.”

And the question I raise today is: Have we not been giving ourselves enough credit? Seriously, Millenials — and honestly, most people under the age of 35 — are often faulted for their me-first attitudes and for being lost in a world of text messages and Instagram.

Could the real issue at hand be that we long for real relationships and authenticity, and we’re seeking out social networks to see if they can fill that void? And then, when it doesn’t work, we jump to the next social platform to see if it gives us that fix?

Don’t believe we crave true relationships? Take a look at what this photographer did and tell me we don’t long for more meaningful interactions in our lives.

There’s a part of me that says, “Why don’t people just look up from their phone and talk to someone face-to-face rather than seek out friendships and conversations through technology?”

But I’m not that naive. And anyone who makes that argument risks sounding like a Pollyanna.

Technology rules our lives, and there’s no getting away from it.

So it isn’t that social media needs to be ditched altogether; rather, social platforms must be constructed in a way that allows for real, meaningful conversation and actual, tangible outcomes that provide people the authentic interactions they crave. Said another way, social media needs to be more than a running diary of random thoughts and funny videos. Those things have their place, of course. But it needs to be a place where collaborators, idea-generators, dreamers and doers come together for a cause, and then see that their efforts hold value offline.

This is what we strive for here at MindMixer. Activating community contributors. Using technology to bring back a front-porch mentality to our neighborhoods, communities and relationships.

As we look ahead to 2014, you’re going to start seeing some unreal advancements from MindMixer when it comes to getting people involved in the things they care about most. And yes, we’re using a social platform as the hub of this network.

We’re banking on the notion that yes, people care, and double yes, they want to contribute to a common goal, and triple yes, they want to initiate their involvement through technology.

What are your thoughts? Use your current social media network to Tweet at us (@mind_mixer) or tell us on Facebook (facebook.com/virtualtownhall).

Published at DZone with permission of Mind Mixer, author and DZone MVB.

(Note: Opinions expressed in this article and its replies are the opinions of their respective authors and not those of DZone, Inc.)