My friend and colleague Leonardo Maldonado recently pointed out a great problem in the way that most of the social networking websites look at connections among people online. I believe that Leonardo sees this as a viewpoint from the USA, and after my travels, I can understand why. Leonardo says: No somos Gringos!!!! (“We aren’t Gringos”) speaking about his background of being from Chile… with the prevailing view that most Americans (from the USA) are focused only on transactional relationships (the kind that you might have if you walk into a coffee shop and ask for just a coffee) versus longer term, deeper “relational” relationships. In this post, Leonardo says: “No nos miramos como agentes individuales que van realizando conexiones con otros para obtener beneficios operacionales tácticos… no usamos nuestras relaciones…. somos nuestras relaciones!!!”. (Rough translation: “We don’t look as individual agents that are going to realize connections with others to obtain tactical operational benefit…. we don’t use our relationships… we are our relationships!”)
After living and working in the US, Mexico, and Chile, and especially for the ideas that I learned from Leonardo and his colleagues while I was in Chile, I totally get what he is saying about “Gringos”…. I believe that I see this especially because living in Austin is so different than other parts of the USA.
Humans that focus on getting transactional value only out of their relationships (“using or getting used”) leave me to want to run away… the notion that I am just a “consumer” or “provider” in someone else’s eyes, which at times is an “American” (as in USA) attitude that gets in the way of having long term lasting relationships.
In the video that Leonardo is writing about in his post- the speaker says get started at LinkedIn, MySpace, and Facebook. Each one of these sites has only the concept of a “social connection” versus a “trust relationship“. The number of social connections a person has might describe how many opportunities that they might have available (google the power of weak ties to read about this)…. but what gives us as humans real meaning (in my opinion) is trust relationships.
Moreover… I am not sure how a “trust relationship” could ever be incorporated into a mechanical system (a website, etc)… for part of trust is in the gut, not in the head. This lack of “trust relationship” and seeing each person in a network as an opportunity to get a house, job, or money is exactly what I think that Leonardo is saying… each person is being treated as an opportunity for transaction, not relation. This is what he, and I, consider to be the “Gringo” attitude of seeing a person with a dollar sign on their forehead, versus as a person with whom to have relationship. We (the USA and the whole world) should focus on creating deep relationships not just creating transactions. Through this, the world will become a better place in which to live.