Just as the newswires and newspapers are frothing at the mouth about Facebook and how many of its users are leaving themselves open to identity theft, I was interested to read details of research from Vodafone that suggests business users of social networking sites are failing to balance their time in the real world with their online time.
Vodafone's research suggests that popular meeting places are top restaurants where clients would expect to be treated to lunch (47 per cent of respondents) or drinks at a private members club (26 per cent), while more than one in ten still prefer to tee off a relationship on the golf course.
Unsurprisingly, researchers found that pubs are also a popular networking venue, with almost a third making the most of their lowered inhibitions (it says here).
Interestingly, however, Vodafone found that, whilst the good old phone (landline and cellular) is still used by 59 per cent of people to network, phone usage has dropped by around 30 per cent in the last ten years.
In fact, says the research, the thought of dealing with people over the phone is so daunting that almost half of business people in their twenties prefer to network online.
Sahar Hashemi, who co-founded the Coffee Republic chain, summed up the research findings when she said that modern day communication tools have an invaluable role to play in business, but you can't replace the trust and understanding that comes from a face-to-face meeting.
"It's important to keep an open mind to new ideas but always remember there is a time to close down the Internet, get out there, look the client in the eye and remember how to do business the way that works in the real world," she said.
And she has a point. The Net has its place, but not always as a replacement for the real world. I shall remember that, next time I read about workers being sacked for overuse of Facebook and Myspace...