There once was a time when "social networking" meant getting out into your community and building relationships. Before phones became ubiquitous, emails the standard, SMS professionally acceptable the main channels for making those connections were civic associations, religious organizations, political groups, hobby clubs, sports teams etc. The motives for participating in these social streams were the same as those that drive users to social networking 2.0 - abate loneliness, grow business opportunities, meet others with shared interests, further your cause, learn more. The methods were rudimentary and shaped largely by social etiquette but at its core social networking was a face-to-face endeavor dedicated to fostering the relationships from which greater institutions, businesses, movements would grow.
While the invention of tons of new technology and processes have made it easier and faster to build a vast social network they have greatly negated the simple value of face-to-face conversation. Making conversation with the person who serves you your coffee in the morning or asking that person you see everyday in the elevator how their weekend was are all starting points for building out your social networks.
Don't get me wrong, I rather like all the new bells and whistles that have brought a good number of people into my world who otherwise would have remained strangers. But, I think as things become increasingly virtual it is important to reexamine the art of the conversation. Twitter, Facebook, blogging, emails, phone calls are all great ways to enhance a conversation but taking the time to really get out there and practice your "hellos" and "how ya doin's" will keep your social networks rooted in reality.
So, before you sign in, boot up, call in or log on have one simple face-to-face conversation. Extra points if it's with someone new. Just relax, engage and see where the network goes.