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Which Is More Important: The Technology Or The Human Relationship?

November 5th, 2007

nework graphsLast week was a abuzz with news about Google’s new OpenSocial announcement, which is supposed to be this amazing platform that allows people to develop a “widget” or feature for many social networks (including MySpace, LinkedIn, all of Ning’s social networks (over 100,000!), and more (but not Facebook, yet)).

And then Yahoo announces it is launching Kickstart, for the college market. Wait, didn’t Facebook do that already? Yep, but when they allowed non-college adults into the network last year the college kids, feeling violated, freaked out. Of course this presents a market opportunity, and Kickstart is not the first nor will it be the only “just for college kids” social network to fill that gap that Facebook created.

I could go on and on… this is a noisy, confusing space! What does it mean for you, for your career, and for your networking? Let me share some thoughts from Vincent Wright, founder of My LinkedIn Power Forum, and powerconnecter extraordinnaire. These thoughts, in my opinion are spot on, and definitely worth thinking about (especially if you feel like you are drowning in all of the networking technology noise). He starts off with:

…I prefer to stay focused on relationships – not just technology focused on relationships. For, if we don’t master human relationships, technology is nothing more than a baby’s pacifier – and having the same effects on our growth [that] a pacifier has on a baby’s growth…

and then, when questioned a little more, responds with:

To me, it’s not a matter of which came first – a relationship or technology. The question for me is fundamentally simple: “Now that the technology has brought us together, what do we DO with our relationship?”

Technology is just a tare weight.

Technology is no different than the utensils we use to enjoy our food and nourish ourselves.

I don’t love knives, spoons, of forks but, I can love the taste of the meals they help me consume.

Likewise, I don’t love technology but, I can get excited about them and what they portend in terms of healthy human relationships created via them.

And, too, think about the trillions of permutations and combinations of contacts that have been fostered by technology and absolutely NOTHING is happening with contacts. NOTHING. At all. NO relationship – just awareness of one another. Technology connects us and nothing happens beyond that. That is, until human INTENTIONALITY gets added to the equation and humans reach out to help one another prosper, to grow, to strengthen themselves. The technology that brings us together is impotent in that regard.

Humans mattered first – and humans will matter last…

Vincent is not afraid of, or unfamiliar with technology. In fact, he’s tried more tech network things than I have, and has more history in this space. But Vincent does not neglect the end goal. For him, the technologies are not toys, rather they are tools. But it all comes down to relationships. Very nicely put Vincent :) (props to Jay Deragon, blogger at A Relationship Economy blog, for engaging Vincent in this discussion)

4 Comments »

4 responses to “Which Is More Important: The Technology Or The Human Relationship?”

  1. Human relationships matter most when dealing with people. Technology is great (and I make my living off of technology: http://www.nutsandboltsdesign.com, http://www.ridegroupllc.com), but as Vincent mentioned, it’s merely a tool.

    As a web programmer/designer/all around tech guy, I sometimes wonder who we’re trying to kid when we use terms like “Web 2.0” or when the latest and greatest electronic widget gets introduced to the market. From my experience, most people do not know nor do they care about a ton of features (unless it’s a safety feature). Most people just want technology to work, be fast and not give them a headache when using it.

    It’s like going to a meeting with a programmer/engineer and they are using technical jargon, without taking the time to speak on a level most people can understand. Putting technology before the relationship is a sure way to lead to ambiguity and confusion.

    Besides, I dont know about you guys and gals, but, I don’t want technology to become larger than life! I’ve seen the movies (Matix, Terminator, etc).

    :)

  2. Jason Alba says:

    Demetrius, thanks for the thoughts!

    I was thinking about this yesterday… here’s a random thought.

    What is technology (specifically, social networks, etc.) without relationships? Nothing.

    What are relationships without technology? Still very powerful.

    Obviously technology can be a great tool in developing, managing, nurturing, finding (etc) relationships… I’m not discounting that at all, and I’m grateful for the technology we have for these purposes. But I think too many people get hung up on the technology and don’t really get into the relationships!

  3. Vickie Mooney says:

    Well, I guess the most import point is that without the human factor, we wouldn’t need the technology.
    Also, technology has helped to make the world smaller, which is a good thing for the human race and for maintaining relationships and creating new ones.

  4. Jason Alba says:

    Vickie, I totally agree with you.