Isolation or Connection. The Choice Is Yours.

I distinctly remember one of my high school friends pulling up at our local hangout, beside himself with excitement, as I heard the dulcet tones of Roger Waters on The Wall coming from his tape player.

I was caught up in The Wall the very first time I listened to the whole thing. It was a masterpiece. One of the short segue songs on the album is called, “Is There Anybody Out There?”  It’s a haunting song, really, where the main character feels isolated and is wondering where everybody is.

This is how I see the social media landscape today.

When I first joined the social media melee, I was behind. I did not see the value of social media because, like many people today, I wasn’t interested in the fluff and drivel of other people’s daily lives I was seeing on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.  My eyes were opened wide when my brother and my sister-in-law showed me the true business value in social media. I began to connect with HR, leadership and business folks who were putting out amazing information that I, honestly, didn’t even know existed.

I was hooked on social media just as I was when I had the first full listen to The Wall. I couldn’t get enough! I was reading blogs, listening to blog radio, and connecting with phenomenal people online. It was fantastic. Then, many of the people whom I was following and learning from went silent.  The same people who urged HR to get out of silos and into the mix of social media and were leading voices and thought leaders went off the grid. You could still find them, but they retreated to their blogs and some of them have stopped communicating all together.

I started hearing that haunting song again and began wondering, “is there anybody out there?”

I facilitated a roundtable discussion on the topic of networking. One of the reasons the group gave on why people aren’t effective networkers was that “meeting people takes too much time.”  I was stunned. Really? Getting to know others takes too much energy and time so you’d rather not? Yuck.

I wonder if all those great people I was following are thinking, “What’s next?  Is this all there is?”  Let me say that I don’t think that this is all there is. This is just the beginning and we’re honestly just starting to get connected.  We truly want to get to know each other but we can’t just do the electronic thing. So, let’s do something different. I am being very intentional and am doing something radical. I’ve started to contact the folks I’d truly like to be connected to. I try to have a “surprise call Tuesday” or something goofy to connect with these people on the phone or in person.

I choose to take the time and energy to know you, every one of you, because it matters.  It always has.

Are you connecting with others or just waiting for them to disappear? Get out from behind your blogs or get out of your office. Invite a colleague to lunch, join a networking group or call a peer you haven’t spoken with in a while. Reach out to someone new to just say, “Hi.”

Get to know each other. Break down the walls. Connect. It’s fantastic. Isolation or connection?  It’s your time to choose.

Steve is our Women of HR Featured Contributor this week. Click over to meet him and see what he has to say about himself, his career, and his views on the workplace and the women in it.  

About the Author

Steve Browne

Steve Browne is the ultimate connector and social media guidance counselor and also works in the trenches of Human Resources. Steve is the Executive Director of HR for LaRosa’s. He has responsibilities for the strategic direction of over 1400 employees. In his spare time, he is active in Ohio SHRM and runs a subscriber-based newsletter called HR Net. Connect with Steve on Twitter as @sbrownehr and on LinkedIn.


Sue Robichaud

Hi Steve

Just read your article and I agree totally. It is too easy to hide behind the electronic cold facade of social media. Do not get me wrong, it is a great system and very productive, but the human factor is absent and that is what makes meeting people so fulfilling. You can accomplish a lot on social media but connecting one on one can never be replaced.
Thank you for reminding us that we need physical contact to be complete. I agree with Kathy; it is like being cut off at the knees. It is time for us to reconnect with friends and yes even those we have not met yet but should.

Kathie Currier

Very good article, Steve. I just can’t imagine life without the “touch” factor that goes beyond social media. I would feel cut off at the knees.

Let’s not forget that “touch” can be something as simple as a handwritten thank you for a party attended or a gift received over the holidays. I received an email today from someone thanking me for the handwritten note I had sent saying, “you didn’t need to send that but I appreciate it VERY much.” It was obviously an unusual occurance and I know the impression it left was a very positive one.

Jessica Miller-Merrell


Conversations are a two way form of engagement. It’s a scary prospect for many. Some don’t like what they hear when they do reach while others get overwhelmed with the shear amount of information, opinions, knowledge, and chatter.

It’s easy to retreat to a nice warm and safe place like a blog where you control the message and content. It’s harder to move beyond the blog and have conversations face to face over voice to voice. There’s risk and the possibility of that person beyond the blog being someone else than the reader or contact expected. I think about those kind of things myself. Although, I work hard to try to be me on every medium in real life and online.

And being you can be an exhausting task. The task of keeping up with the Jones’s, the HR social media community so many retreat to their warm and familiar places where they are looked to as the expert and authority without question.

Good post Steve. You are doing good things. I’m proud to know you.



Steve Browne

Jay – Thanks for the comment. I hope the “push” works for you and I know that you’ll meet at least one new person when we meet at #HRevolution in April !!

John – You are one of those folks I HAVE to meet in person !! I appreciate that we’ve connected as much as we have. I agree that this message needs to get outside of the Social Media sphere and I have some ideas on that. I’ll be in touch . . .

Meghan – Thanks for the kinds words. I love that we’re connecting as well. I also think “leader” should be tied to your name with all the good work you do with @TalentCulture and #TChat !! Maybe you’ll come to #HRevolution or #OHSHRM in 2011 ????

Brad – Thanks for the support of the idea of keeping things “human”. Also, love that you’re a fellow Cincinnatian. We’ll have to meet !!

Matthew – Always appreciate your candor. I think you’re moving mountains by taking WISHRM to Social Media. Being the bridge for practitioners is the next step for all of us and I applaud you leading this. Can’t wait to meet you at #HRevolution.

Mary – I wish I could get others to know you !! Note to others – Mary is a fellow Cincinnatian who comes to our HR Roundtable. Someone who is intentional and a great HR pro !!

Cyndy – You continue to amaze me with your willingness to be a #FF champion and connect HR professionals. Open to a spontaneous call ?? I think you’re going to be getting one soon . . .

Cyndy Trivella

Steve, you always seem to hit the nail on the head. Social media is an awesome experience and one that has introduced me to people that I may not have had the chance to meet otherwise. This is something that I especially love about SM, however this said, you are spot on when you say that it does not replace the human touch of a phone call or face-to-face meeting. SM does help to bridge the geographic constraints and is a great introduction tool, but is one of many steps required to develop meaningful relationships. I love that you make spontaneous calls to people; what a fun idea!

Mary Huelsman

As always you show great insight with high energy and enthusiasm. Thanks for your enlightened message.


A few things:
1. I am generally reserved, and usually do not enjoy or like talking on the phone. So, reaching out and calling others is often difficult, even with the ones I am closest with (including family). But, the cell phone companies love me as I won’t use the minutes of the most basic plan 🙂
2. I am much more comfortable in short bursts, so Twitter, texting, and Facebooking are much more up my alley.
3 As the new social media director (odd given #1) for Wisconsin, I convinced the state council to require that all chapters have a Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn presence in 2011. Lots of fear and resistance that I will have to battle to overcome in the next year

Brad Olinger

Recently had a simular discussion about social media. My friend therorized of a social media bubble. So much of “never make a phone call again”, and “The future of networking” I have heard. I feel that there will never be a substitute for in person, or by phone networking.

I say that in a 5 minute conversation you can learn more about a person perspective and motive than with 100 emails, newsletters, and blog posts.

Meghan M. Biro

Great article Steve! I’m here and we *are* connecting. It gets better every month. I vote yes.

You continue to inspire me with your energy and quest for real interconnectedness. Thanks for being a leader who consistently sets a wonderful example for every community you serve.

John Jorgensen

Steve, great piece. It should be required reading for those who can’t (or won’t) see the value of social media. I am guess though that the only ones reading this are those who have been sold on SM. We need to find ways to broadcast this message wider.

Women of HR, thanks for letting Steve play in your space.

Jay Kuhns

Terrific piece! I’m going to take this to heart and continue reaching out beyond the safety of the electronic world. I’ve only done so in a limited way thus far. Thanks for the push!


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