Networking has come to mean different things in recent years. Say it to an adult, they’ll wonder if you’re talking about a conference or social media. Say it to a teenager, they’ll assume you’re talking about social media. Say it to anyone overly handy with a computer, and they may just ask you how many computers you’re trying to connect. The common thread here is a network is a series of connections, of relationships. Creating networks benefits us on many levels.
Networking benefits us as a social activity. When we connect with people who have similar professional or personal interests, it gives us a bond with those people and we feel like we’re part of something. It gives us people to collaborate with in our interests, to share with, to bounce ideas off of. We take our place within the network by contributing our own combination of information and ideas, and help build a sense of community and responsibility within the network.
Tapping our network gives us a greater knowledge pool to tap when we have questions or problems related to those interests. Not only does this make us appear smarter, it makes the body of knowledge surrounding that topic stronger. When more people know something, it preserves that information. More gets lost on a daily basis because only a few people know it. But making it part of a widely available knowledge pool gives it a better chance of being around to help those who get involved with the knowledge pool later on.
Being able to network, both as a contributing node and as a seeker, is something many of us do without a second thought. We’ve been involved in our networks for so long that it’s become second nature, but it’s something we have to teach along with design, collaboration, and various literacies, to help keep networks strong communities.