Over the past couple decades, we have been told over and over again that the most important sources for job information are weak ties—in other words, acquaintances. But now we have an embarrassment of riches in terms of the tools and platforms available to us. It’s more information than we can ever take in, and we have a vast number of connections with people—connections that are often very vague and shallow. So knowing how to make the most of online networks has become increasingly difficult, even as it has become more important.
Today, we pack more computing power in our pocket than it took to get to the moon, and we can send a message to anyone in the world in less than a second. We’re overloaded with information, and as a consequence, many of us feel more anxious, more distracted and less productive. Why? “Unlike computers, we do not have limitless storage nor do we have unlimited time”, writes Julia Hobsbawm in her book Fully Connected. As a social network analyst, she says that people today are struggling with over-connectedness and are searching for meaning. People need to look more closely at what she calls “social health”.
Some introverts dread small talk and trying to get to know strangers. But like it or not, networking is necessary. Research has found that regions with higher numbers of contacts per capita were more resilient to economic shocks during the Great Recession. Today, as we embrace all the advances in communication–with more online discussion and less face time–questions over the efficiency of online networking are being raised. Yet the trend is irreversible, and what we need to do is find out a useful role for this new way of networking .