For The Sake Of Social Reciprocity

“Hangin’ out
Down the street
The same old thing
We did last week
Not a thing to do
But talk to you…”

—Cheap Trick, “That 70’s Song”

When I saw it for the first time, my heart filled with love and faith, and my spirit transcended the atmospheric sensitivity of childhood scarring.

“Chewie, we’re home.” (Star Wars: The Force Awakens)

For some, the words are meaningless, nothing more than another passing obscure reference of no interest, something silly for the crazies of sci-fi fandom.

But for me, it’s beyond moving.

Flashback to the summer of 1977, the world was complicated. We were still recovering from the longest and steepest recession at that time. Middle East tensions ran high. Domestic violence awareness and child abuse awareness was in its infancy. Political myopia was everywhere. We seemed to be a highly disconnected world in the wake of early technological innovation.

I was in my own complicated world living with domestic violence and abuse. Star Wars was to become a savior of sorts. My little sister and I stood in the long, hot line at the Fox Theater in Visalia, CA to see the new space epic.

We sat in the dark theater and held fast the seats beneath us, looking aspirational celluloid straight in the eye. I remember with stellar clarity the journey to a galaxy far, far away when I became one with rogues, rebels, villains and heroes and a musical score that haunts me to this day.

Nothing else really mattered until the house lights came up. We didn’t have social media then, so it’s all my friends and I could talk about “IRL” for the rest of that summer and well into the school year. But I carried with me a newfound hope, and now decades later, multi-generations of fans wait longingly for the next chapter of the Star Wars saga.

Chewie, we’re home sent chills through many of us and we cheered along (and I’m still cheering since I’ve watched the new trailer over and over and over again), yet again living in a complicated parallel universe to 1977: economic recovery, global tension, political myopia, accessible domestic violence and child abuse awareness, a now highly interconnected world via a mobile and social tech explosion. I now talk to some of those same childhood friends online more than in person.

Besides my excitement of my girls watching the films someday soon, these interactions in and around the new move have been online. My friends and I look at each other digitally in the eye and revel in the rebel joy, or poke fun at each other and the satiric spoofing from Space Balls and comedic titles like “Star Wars: When the Sith Hits the Fan.”

star wars Mama and DaddyAnd us older folk – those in their late 30’s, 40’s, 50’s and even beyond – aren’t the only ones “present” with one another on Facebook sharing Star Wars fun. Facebook is the most popular and frequently used social media platform among teens, and those who have us as parents and have already been exposed to the Jedi magic will share with one another authentically online as well as in person.

But building and sustaining authentic relationships in person or online is no easy task. It takes an investment of being “present,” whether you’ve met someone for the first time, or talking with him or her for the thousandth time.

For example, have you met people at a conference or in a networking situation (maybe at the recent Star Wars Celebration) and they’re constantly looking around the room to see who else is there, or they’re looking at their watch, or anywhere except at you? Most likely yes, and those signals mean they aren’t really “present” in the conversation, so there is no true connection.

The same goes for those who’ve been connecting with me of late on LinkedIn, people I don’t know but who share numerous “personal” connections, and so I connect. Shortly thereafter they’re endorsing me with skills that may be relevant, but that they have no relational context with. And then they’re hitting me up for one thing or another.

Even sharing personal anecdotes from greater good of the Star Wars universe doesn’t sway me from hitting delete.

Introductions and ongoing relationships in social platforms require the same personal attention as the human touch and eye contact in a physical relationship, said Ted Rubin, social media marketing icon and TalentCulture #TChat Show guest. That means whether at work, at home, in a movie theater, or online. Anywhere and everywhere and all points in between.

It’s a reciprocal two-way street to not only sustain but also to grow new relationships online, especially when you won’t see the person much if at all. Unless for reasons of safety and security, online anonymity does not a relationship build, and even brands can lift the veil so we see the whites of each other’s eyes. Online public shaming is bad enough when we know who the shamers are.

When we listen and really hear one another, really “see” one another, and respond in thoughtful kind, only then can we figure out how we can serve one another personally and professionally in the best way possible through every boom or bust.

I’m not talking about taking on global injustice or saving the world, but I am suggesting this is how we empower each other’s worlds through personal leadership and positive focal points for the sake of a better home world and social reciprocity – key advice for organizations recruiting and developing their people, for diverse professionals growing and sustaining online internal and external community, and for companies connecting with prospects and customers.

“You have that power, too,” says Luke Skywalker in the latest Star Wars teaser trailer.

Make fun of me if you want, but when we’re present, the Force awakens in all of us. Always.

Photo: Fox Theater