In the ’50s and ’60s back in the neighborhood, “real social interaction” preceded all of today’s empty suit social media communications. When we were teens, we were doing things like marketing, organizing events and, most significant, developing social skills and learning life lessons on the playground…without parental guidance and fanfare.
Social media truly benefits so many people. But when you peel back the social media onion, is it really sociable? You know, old-school stuff where people shake hands and talk and see the whites of each other’s eyes. Sure, a tweet or a blog can ignite an online friendship, but it’s no substitute for real social interaction. And I have yet to hear of anyone’s tweeting their way up the corporate ladder. I have asked my buddies in our old group; they all agree on social media’s positive aspects, but it’s the importance of face-to-face social interaction and having a personality that have really impacted their lives.
If I have had any success at all in my life, it’s due to my ability to interact, network and communicate with people. Growing up in a sociable environment paid off for me and most of my buddies, in our careers and in life—not just digitally interacting with my 1,000+ virtual followers or talking to Siri.
Our group—called the Baggers, comprising over three dozen guys and girls—evolved from the playground in 1962. A gang called the Baggers? Well, we would throw snowballs at cars; and when we hit one, we would say we “bagged ’em.” The one I remember best was a truck driver who had his window open. We splattered his truck, and at least one snowball hit him in the head. We ran like hell and hid. I think he’s still looking for us.
We argued and fought; but if involved in an altercation with others, we were a band of brothers—no excuses. We were also more than willing to accept and learn from criticism. We had to be, because blaming someone else was not acceptable. We learned that when bad things happen, you deal with it. Then move on.
Accountability, teamwork and friendliness were vital then, as they are today. We leveraged relationships and interpersonal skills to mold our environment. We played as a team, won and lost, and learned how to react and adapt to pressure. We were not part of the “trophy for everyone” generation. We learned how to socialize, negotiate, communicate and read body language. Sizing someone up was an art, serving in the future to help me ascertain whom the BS might come from. We learned to recognize team players and others who might not be counted on.
We all took pride in promoting our brand, but I was especially focused on it—no doubt a perfect entrée into my career in advertising, communications and PR. I once pitched our successful softball efforts to the local press, even getting noted in the Chicago Tribune when we beat the best team in softball history, the Bobcats. We had Baggers T-shirts, sweatshirts and stickers. We would have had an awesome website, if Al Gore would have invented it by then—guys’ and girls’ bios, scores, highlights, videos and photos.
Through the Baggers we developed leadership skills, learned the arts of strategy and execution, practiced until we got it right—attributes expected of future business leaders. We learned to communicate and developed the art of conversation, using humor and storytelling.
All of these efforts contributed to our future success. My guess is if any one of us were on Survivor, we would win. A skill not learned by interacting on your smartphone.
Al Maag is author of the book "Social Media Isn't Social" available on Amazon.com; and a principal at MaagComm+