Umair Haque wrote a provocative post in his Harvard Business Review Blog. I have quoted it below to start a conversation about how close or deep our online relationships really are, and how we can improve on them. Here is what Umair says:
I’d like to advance a hypothesis: Despite all the excitement surrounding social media, the Internet isn’t connecting us as much as we think it is. It’s largely home to weak, artificial connections, what I call thin relationships.
During the subprime bubble, banks and brokers sold one another bad debt — debt that couldn’t be made good on. Today, “social” media is trading in low-quality connections — linkages that are unlikely to yield meaningful, lasting relationships.
Call it relationship inflation. Nominally, you have a lot more relationships — but in reality, few, if any, are actually valuable. Just as currency inflation debases money, so social inflation debases relationships. The very word “relationship” is being cheapened. It used to mean someone you could count on. Today, it means someone you can swap bits with.
Thin relationships are the illusion of real relationships. Real relationships are patterns of mutual investment. I invest in you, you invest in me. Parents, kids, spouses — all are multiple digit investments, of time, money, knowledge, and attention. The “relationships” at the heart of the social bubble aren’t real because they’re not marked by mutual investment . At most, they’re marked by a tiny chunk of information or attention here or there.