Most of us have a social media network that far exceeds our “in-person” network. You read all time about the importance of making sure you put the “person” into your network and get out and meet people. I have written about that several times, most strongly in A Cup of Coffee and A Chat: Networking at Its Core. But some reading I have done has made it clear that there is some psychological value to your social media network.
In a blog post on Big Think called The Stockdale Paradox: How Optimism Creates Resilience, Daniel Honan discussed the experience of Admiral James Stockdale during the Vietnam War. Stockdale was the highest ranking officer held in a POW camp. Subsequently he received a great deal of “special treatment” yet survived and actually exited the experience with an incredibly optimistic view of the world. Honan reports the work of psychologist Dennis Charney, who said that what helped Stockdale survive was the secret communication he had with other prisoners using a “tap code.” Charney says that the “tap code” communication is what kept the prisoners sane and they developed lifelong friendships from that communication. Honan writes that “according to Charney, everyone needs a tap code. In other words, ‘everybody needs a set of individuals in their life that they can count on, that they can share their feelings with, that they can ask for advice in terms of facing a trauma.’ That is why Charney recommends you should develop a network of friends and relatives who you can share your emotions with.”
Isolation doesn’t need to occur in just a prison cell. It can occur in your job as well, especially in an HR job. When you are charged with confidentiality you may find it difficult to share with others especially someone else within the company. Or you can be like many people I know who are sole practitioners and labor away in their single office writing. Some of those people don’t make a concerted effort to get out and meet people. Their “tap points” may only be family, many of whom are not really people you can talk your “business” to. This is where your social media contacts come in.
In the isolation of your job you need to communicate, you need to have someone you can unburden to, or can have pick you up when you are down. Social media such as Facebook or Twitter can provide that “tap code” opportunity. You can communicate beyond the cell of your job and maintain your optimism and resilience by tapping code to he “prisoner” beside you.
Think about! Who provides you that energy?