Recently I had an incredibly meaningful conversation on Twitter involving Jeff Turner (@respres) and Ines Hegedus-Garcia (@ines) where we discussed Social Capital versus Social Karma. The conversation was actually started by Kim Wood (@kimwood) with a simple tweet stating, “Whuffie or Building your Social Capital should not be done with the intention of “building your social capital”. I’m jussayin.” She rocked my world with this and the discussion began.
For me, this hit the nail on the head because I have always been a little leery of how people were using the term of “social capital”. I’ll disclose that I have read “The Whuffie Factor” as well as the predecessor of this with regards to Social Capital, “”Down and out in the Magic Kingdom”. But this isn’t a book review, this is simply my take on Social Capital, what I will refer to as Social Karma, how they affect one another and more importantly that they two are not mutually exclusive.
Ines has written a brilliant post on our conversation over at Agent Genius entitled, “Social Media Politics can Suck You Dry” which sparked a wonderful conversation of comments. It’s written from her point of view and perfectly honest. As she says in her post:
“There is so much talk about being genuine and doing things for a greater good without expecting anything in return, but to tell you the truth, most of us are here to make money and to improve our business. This doesn’t mean we can’t have fun in the process and show our personalities, but I’m not Ghandi or Mother Theresa – I volunteer my time, I raise money for charities and truly believe in the Universal Law and Power of Intention – but my time here has a goal and I have strategies for business as should you.”
God bless you Ines – you are totally on point and have spoken the truth about your intentions on social media. She succinctly puts the difference between Social Capital and Social Karma into a beautiful one word (and very Zen) sentence.
Social Capital is a way to quantify your presence and the depth of your involvement whereas Social Karma goes so much deeper than that.
Karma and Capital
Social Capital has many different definitions and has been around for years prior to the best seller “Whuffie Factor”. It has not always been positive, however, and its negatives are discussed in depth in the book “Down and out in the Magic Kingdom”. In it (and other books) the negative elements of secular Social Capital are explored in the terms of Bridging vs. Bonding Social Capital. This, however is another post for another day… (but can be referenced here)
Quantifying or calculating your Social Capital is a huge discussion with regards to Social Media/Networking today. It is often times discussed as a piggy bank where deposits are made (by a means) for future withdrawal (i.e. asking for something in return). What often times is NOT discussed is your potential Social Debt (or Karma) when operating in this social capital marketplace. Where this is the means to the end, I believe that what affects these deposits and debt is where my idea of Social Karma comes into play.
But what is Social Karma?
First of all, Social and Karma are kind of redundant (as pointed out by @repres) since Karma already has to do with society as a whole. But I want to use Social Karma to indicate that I am discussing Karma with regards to “Online Social” interactions. To understand, (and these are my opinions only), I think we need to understand what the principles of Karma really are.
“Karma is the universal principle of cause and effect. Our actions, both good and bad, come back to us in the future, helping us to learn from life’s lessons and become better people.” – Wikipedia
Social Karma is then, in essence, the overall world in which all things reside with regards to a society. Social Capital; respect, influence, and all of the other benefits and negatives actually reside within the world of Social Karma. Karma is basically energy. One person throws out energy through thoughts, words and actions, and it comes back, in time, through other people.
The process of action and reaction on all levels—physical, mental and spiritual—is karma. One must pay attention to thoughts, because thought can make karmas—good, bad and mixed.
A big part that is often overlooked in this is that Karma is both good and bad. It’s not ALWAYS your positive actions and rewards associated… your karma can also be something selfish or negative that adds to your overall cosmic debt. So with this being said, Social Karma (in speaking about Social Networks/Networking) is actually the MEANS, or one way, in which one can actually affect their Social Capital (or make deposits into said piggy bank).
“Karma is the best teacher, forcing people to face the consequences of their actions and thus improve and refine their behavior, or suffer if they do not. Even harsh karma, when faced in wisdom, can be the greatest spark for personal growth.”- Wikipedia
So here’s my thoughts on this:
Social Capital is what you seek
(influence, reach, positive or not)
Social Karma is HOW you get there
(consider them guiding principles, ethics, beliefs, or your energy)
There are three types of karma in Hinduism:
1. Sanchita karma - the sum total of past karmas yet to be resolved;
2. Prarabdha karma – that portion of sanchita karma that is to be experienced in this life; and
3. Kriyamana karma - the karma that humans are currently creating, which will bear fruit in future.
Sanchita Karma (Sum Total Karma or “Accumulated actions” or the Arrows in the Quiver)
*This is your total cosmic debt. Every moment of your every day, you are either adding to it or you are reducing this cosmic debt.
Praarabdha Karma (Fructifying Karma or “Actions began; set in motion” or Arrows in Flight)
*This is Karmic Template of that portion of Sanchita Karma that is ripe enough to be experienced by you and allotted for this lifetime for you to work on.
Kriyamana Karma (Instant, Current Karma or “Being made” or Arrows in Hand)
*This is the daily, instant Karma created in this lifetime and that we create in our life because of our free actions. These are debts that are created and worked off – i.e. for example, you park your vehicle in a ‘No Parking Space’, you get caught and you are fined (punished) immediately.
What the hell does this all mean?
An 800lb gorillas in the room that no one usually discusses, (except Ines!), is what you seek through gaining social capital, or what is your intention for growing it? Whether it be business, respect, more readers to your blog, speaking engagement opportunities, or simply ego-driven popularity – I would venture to say that everyone has some kind of reason for building social capital.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but as @joespake said the other day “there seems to be alot of posturing and less actual genuine participation”. As a business coach, I would even venture to suggest that you make sure you have some kind of strategy for building this. But does it have to be your defining ultimate task?
I think this is the million dollar question.
The idea of “Whuffie” is based on the idea of a “post-scarcity” economy as described in “Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom” and we are far from that in today’s society of real life. People still need to make a living and close deals to pay the mortgage, (regardless of social capital I’m not thinking that your bank is going to accept it to pay off your mortgage). Also, we are all human beings and often times think about ourselves first (which isn’t always bad… as Ines says we are not Ghandi or Mother Theresa).
I think that this is all about balance (and yes this is me trying to bring it full circle). Personally, I’m not looking for any kind of financial gain through my online contributions, but like anyone else I enjoy being quoted, tweeted, asked to speak at an event, etc. It benefits my self-esteem, my self-worth, and makes me feel good by doing it. But at the same time these actions benefits others because I focus on providing value to them through my thoughts, words, presentations, teachings and research.
Some might take a look at this sentence above and say, “wow – that’s egotistical or self serving.” But this is me being honest and open about the goals of my Karmic Actions and truth – is me being genuine and authentic through transparancy.
In closing and through much thought on this topic, I think that Social Karma and Social Capital are intertwined regardless of your take on my post. Whether your are a “Whuffie” fan or not, Social Capital and Karma are just revisits to the Golden Rule of which we were raised on as a child, “Treat others as you would want to be treated.” I think that by approaching Social Karma as “the defining principles” as to how you build Social Capital, it allows us all to formulate (one again) guiding principles or guidelines for your online campaign.