Making Connections

January 26, 2010

I’ve recently re-opened my Facebook account. It was prompted by the fact that a number of organisations I’m rather sweet on have begun interacting more and more through Facebook. I find it odd – but there it is! Of course not only does this open the floodgates to much wanted information, but I now find myself surfing through lists of people I know, as well as many I don’t know, and being prompted to accept or reject people as ‘friends’. What a horrid idea. Hundreds of photos blinking before me – it’s like being trapped in a Boxing Day sales crowd all over again!

Last time this happened I deleted my account and went and hid under the bed for two days…I’m not sure what I feared exactly – loss of anonymity and privacy? false friendship? a sense of obligation?

But this time, as I’ve been thinking it through, I am reminded of the systems readings I’ve been doing recently, which helps me to recast the experience in a new light. Whether it is the root system of a tree (Wheatley, 2006), the neural pathways of the brain (Doidge, 2009)  or entire organisations (Senge, 1990) what is abundantly clear is that the more connections that exist within a system the healthier that system becomes. Certainly Senge and Wheatley both advocate that if you want to improve the culture, effectiveness and even the efficiency of a group then the first thing to do is to start building connections all over the place.

I was also thinking about some of the people with profound disability that I’ve been privileged to meet over the years – and what set those who have a good life apart from those who did not. There is no question that it was about the number of relationships in people’s live. And this isn’t surprising, afterall, relationships in themselves are part of a good life. But relationships also enabled people to have other things in their lives: meaningful roles, a sense of identity, access to resources, safety, good health, love (Wolfensberger, 1998). It’s not that we need to have hundreds of close friends (à la the scary language of Facebook) – but rather that through knowing hundreds of people there is a greater chance of finding those precious individuals who WILL become part of one’s intimate circle. (And if anyone knows of any studies that have done the maths on that, I’d love to hear about them).

So it stands to reason that even introverts like me should be embracing, rather than flinching from connective technologies. Apparently it’s good for us.

Now, where did you say we know each other from?

 Zombie crowd scene from the movie Shaun of the Dead, 2004.

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