Interacting through social media is the latest craze. Consumer applications like Facebook, wikis and Twitter, along with \n\ncollaboration software such as SharePoint\u2014not to mention e-mail and instant messaging\u2014are supposed to make \n\nus more productive. Yet we seem to be developing an aversion to personal interaction that \n\nthreatens to make us less effective, not more so.\n\nMore on CIO.com\nUnderstanding Microsoft SharePoint in a Web 2.0 World\n\nWhy CIOs Should Be On Facebook\n\nIt's long been the case that people e-mail each other rather than get up and talk with their \n\nneighbors. People screen their calls and let them go to voice mail rather than talk to the \n\nperson trying to reach them. We also avoid meetings. I know there are organizational \n\ndynamics that can make meetings awful, but it seems to me that we're using that as an excuse \n\nto avoid talking face to face. One senior manager told me that if a meeting is scheduled for \n\nmore than an hour, he refuses to go.\n\nThere are good reasons for avoiding phone calls and meetings. Sometimes you don't want to be \n\ninterrupted, and badly-run meetings are a waste of time. Social technology makes it easy for \n\nus to stay connected\u2014and get work done\u2014without personal contact. But we also \n\nneed to bring people together to share information, strategize, brainstorm, network and \n\nbuild relationships. As CIOs who wish to marshal the benefits of social software, we must \n\nmake sure we don't lose the benefits of personal, rather than virtual, interaction.\n\nDifferent Ways We Socialize \n\nIf you look at different generations, you can see a difference in their attitudes toward \n\nsocial interaction. People my parents' age regularly socialize with their friends in person. \n\nWhenever I invite my parents to a quiet restaurant they complain because they want to go \n\nsomewhere bustling with "atmosphere." My friends and I are more content to e-mail, IM, chat \n\non the cell, network on LinkedIn and socialize occasionally as a complement to our \n\nelectronic communication. Generation Y uses online social networks intensely, but also \n\nplaces heavy reliance on getting together with peers in person.\n\nPersonality plays a role too. Introverts are drained by social interaction and prefer to \n\nwork in solitude, with short periods of contact as necessary. Extroverts get energized by \n\ntheir dealings with others\u2014but even for them, technology may be replacing the up close \n\nand personal.\n\nThe CIO as Social Director\n\nGiven the diverse approaches that people have to interacting with others, how should a CIO \n\nmanage the use of interactive technology? Clearly, social media and digital communications \n\nopen up new possibilities for information sharing and innovation. They are great for collaborating in a geographically dispersed environment, providing feedback and sharing ideas \n\ngenerally. We should pursue them vigorously. \n\nAt the same time, we need to be mindful that we encourage appropriate levels of face-to-face \n\ninteraction. In particular, being in the same room trumps long-distance communication when \n\nyou want to give constructive criticism or need to work through challenging problems. \n\nStreaming bits and bytes will never replace looking someone in the eye, watching for \n\ninformal cues and sharing real-life experiences. \n\nThe key is to ensure that we synthesize technology with opportunities for direct human \n\ninteraction so that we enable a diverse set of capabilities. For example, you can webcast a \n\nmeeting for 50,000 employees around the world and follow it with in-person, \n\nquestion-and-answer sessions in local offices. And you can capture the feedback from these \n\nlocal meetings to a centralized knowledge-base for follow-up action. This is the balance \n\nthat is needed between virtual and real.