Networks are no substitute for friendships


I have been thinking a lot about networking recently. Having just established my business, moved house, joined the local choir; it seems to be something that I am involved in almost every day. I am convinced that networking is an important part of doing business. It is one of the best forms of marketing, finding new business and developing useful contacts. Furthermore if, like me, you do a lot of work on your own and are a bit of an extrovert, then getting out to meet others at least twice a week is a must if you want to preserve your sanity. I have recently joined my local branch of the London Chamber of Commerce. The person who suggested this to me (also a self employed consultant) said ‘I don’t think I have ever got any business through the Chamber but the support network they offer has been invaluable’. And we all need support at some time in our lives.

But let’s not get these networks confused with true friendship – there is a world of difference between the two and one cannot replace the other. Online networking and social media, while offering so many benefits, can also encourage people to isolate themselves and hide behind the convenient impersonality of email, ‘Facebook’ etc. I am amazed at those who profess to have over 500 connections or ‘friends’ online (do they really know this many people?). Of these friends, how many can really be called on for support? How many will pop round for a drink and a chat when you fancy some company or need cheering up?  Without these ‘true’ friends there is only loneliness. It is interesting that, despite the increasing range of opportunities available for connecting with others, the instances in society of depression (where loneliness is often the root cause) appear to be growing.

In my view the reason for our obsession with casual networks and the apparent over-reliance on virtual networking is because enduring friendships take time to build and face to face communication is difficult. Talking openly and putting effort into more intimate relationships can make us feel exposed and vulnerable – most would rather avoid these feelings.  However,  we need, at some point and in certain contexts, to be able to communicate at a human level and to talk about what is important to us. Even at work there is a place for and value in friendships that go deeper than other business relationships. Networking can be enjoyable and has its advantages. But true friendships are built with different skills and bring entirely different rewards.

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  • Buddy Marvel

    Hear hear! At last a voice of sanity in a world that looks to technology to solve all its problems rather than taking a good look at itself in the mirror.

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