Whether you have the time for them or not, you’ve made your decision

August 4, 2009 by Jared Goralnick

Whether you have 5 or 5,000 people to whom you ought to respond today, you still have just 24 hours and an infinite number of decisions.  I can’t offer you a solution.

But you can stay in people’s lives.  You can make enough time for a select few.  And, no matter what your decision, people will judge your actions.  This isn’t the internet, it’s the real world of real people.

I don’t know what it’s like to be special online.  If I’ve got too much going in my life now, it’s because of self-imposed projects—not 1000 people vying for my time.  And yet, when I read Chris Brogan’s The Importance of Digital Touch, in which he talks about the power of reach but the difficulty in scaling individual touch, I realized we’re all in the same boat.

Social Media Part Two: We’re All Real

If you’re new to social media, let me get a little lesson out of the way: the way you think of the tools you’re using now is completely different than you’re going to think of them a year from now.  Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and LinkedIn are not just just ways for building relationships strategically and quickly.  It’s easy to think of it as a game or sales channel, but it’s not.

The people will be so much more real than you ever thought.

I was coming to terms with this myself in my Avoiding the online popularity contest to seek a deeper connection article.  But until one gets past that, this whole online social thing will just be a game; unfortunately, viewed that way, it’s easy to lose.

Real Presence

I’ve come to terms with the idea of being present in people’s lives at many points.  Sometimes it has to do with romantic relationships, sometimes it’s personal friendships, sometimes it’s business.  If you’re feeling voyeuristic, here’s some of my own journey through this:

Have things changed in the past 18 months when the prevalence of social networks has grown even more?  No.  The only thing that’s changed is the number of connections.

Back to Chris’ Article

Chris is keeping up with JP Rangaswami passively: he enjoys JP’s posts, tweets, and so forth.  But he’s not keeping in touch with JP, or at least he fears that his presence isn’t felt by JP—that JP doesn’t know Chris is paying attention.  Chris is afraid of “becoming a ghost” in the world of some of the friends he values.

Chris feels that it isn’t hard to touch people lightly online if there are only “a hundred or so” people, but that it’s difficult or impossible with thousands of people.

Here’s where Chris and all of us have something in common: we all are struggling to let our presence be felt by those we care about.  Sure, our number of connections may be different than Chris’s, but we all have people we care about who we’d like to hold onto.

Bringing It All Together: Reality and Real Presence

The more we recognize our online (and real life) connections as real people, and the more we show them that we still want to be in their lives, the more present we’ll be for them.  Of course, this can’t scale to thousands of people but, with Chris as the archetype, it can scale to dozens.  Here’s a table of presence I posted in the guide to online/offline presence in May ‘08:

Keeping in Touch Presence
A reminder that you exist A role in someone’s life
Can be mechanical (birthday wishes, etc.) Personal (about the person, not just the event)
Based on quantity & frequency Based on quality & Impact

It is possible to keep in touch with hundreds and to be present in dozens’ of lives.  (And advice on that is in the other links I provided, as well as Chris’ article.)

The point here is that most people will simply disappear, and that’s fine.  But you ought to think hard about whether you want to appear or disappear and with which people.  While I try very hard to be around those who I care about, I do make mistakes and slide out of people’s lives, too.

While I could say that the call-to-action of this post is to go out and email someone you care about, the real point is that, if you don’t, you may slip out of view.  This isn’t a game, but this is an opportunity to hold onto lifelong relationships.

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4 Responses to “Whether you have the time for them or not, you’ve made your decision”


  1. Art Jacoby

    Great topics Jared! It makes sense to “right size” online and offline relationship activities to what you can reasonably and enjoyably do. I started Twittering with volume in mind but realized that its more important to connect with others I enjoy, can learn from & perhaps help along the way… regardless of quantity. Keep provoking!

  2. Barry Wheeler

    Engage, engage, engage. It’s about a balance and you have to engage those that are in your social network. It’s simple.

  3. Bruce Johnston

    I agree with you both and at sometime you need to add Face-to-Face (F2F)meetings into this crazy thing ca;;ed social media. Remember, we are all humans and enjoy the touch! Please read about where F2F fits into the social media toolbox here: http://budurl.com/w757

  4. Jared Goralnick

    Art, that’s great to see that you’re enjoying the process of getting familiar with the online world…and the people you find here.

    Barry, thanks for stopping by. But “engage” isn’t specific enough for me. I can arguably engage you by writing a good blog post that’s aimed at everyone…but this comment, though it’s aimed specifically at you, is less engaging. It’s not just about engagement (making oneself relevant within one’s reach–personally OR generally) but also touch (one-on-one “I know you exist” types of outreach). It’s important to touch individuals from time to time, not just to engage the larger audience.

    Bruce, it’s not just F2F that is part of the touch I’m recommending. F2F doesn’t even imply that one’s presence is felt. It’s a combination between touch and, as Barry put it, engagement.

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