By Terry Anker
Sometimes it seems like Greta Garbo may have had it right when she said, “I want to be alone.” But that feeling seldom lasts long, and we miss the company of friends and family. Even Garbo adjusted her most famous utterance to, “I never said, ‘I want to be alone.’ I only said, ‘I want to be left alone.’ There is all the difference.” She had a point. As much as we need each other, don’t we also crave a little space? If the paradox of social interaction is the ultimate fixture of the human condition, then networking is its calling card.
Encarta defines it in two ways: 1. the act of linking computers so that they can share info or access a central hub; and 2. the process or practice of building up or maintaining informal relationships that can lead to job or business advantage. Somehow, the first definition makes more sense to me than the later. When we interconnect to build our communities, our knowledge or our interconnectedness, how can it be a bad thing? Yet, when we use the network for only our own advantage, doesn’t the network ultimately only become folks looking for a hand and no one offering to give one? If we constantly harvest and never plant, how long will we eat?
Why don’t we say good things about good people, whether it’s a direct benefit to us or not? Folks should know if Mike is a solid dude (or not). Recently, I told Frank that Mike was top shelf. Frank left the room only to return moments later. He said, “Actually, I know Mike – we had lunch last week and he said good things about you, too.” Now there is a network that exchanges even as it harvests. It was so easy, and it meant so much.