The rise of social media has become epidemic that those who love it, obsess over it relentlessly at the expense of other matters, and those who hate it, shy away religiously. And yet, will social networks replace real human relationships in business? No.

I was watching a Taiwanese cable TV channel a few weeks back, and a story segment really caught my attention.

The story was about organic farming with a human touch.

A Taiwanese corporate executive gave up his day job in the busy city, something he was very successful in, and turned to farming in a remote rural area instead. Initially, many people around him, especially his peers, wondered what got into his head. He was not going crazy, rather, he sought an inner peace in a quiet area doing something that was extremely therapeutic – farming. At the same time, he set up a stall in the small town selling his produce, and began to form new friendships with the people in the town. Likewise, on the other side of the globe, a British researcher left his professional field in the United Kingdom and became a mushroom farmer, selling his fresh organic mushrooms to people in the town whom he became friends with.

This is social networking, the real-world variety.

Business relationships cannot be forged merely by dollars and cents, and especially not by razor-sharp legal contracts that leave no room for engaged parties to breathe or move even so slightly.

Business relationships are just our everyday relationships, with our families and friends. Relationships of any kind are built on honest engagement, and actual physical meetings. There is nothing like meeting someone and seeing into his eyes and knowing what he actually feels, as opposed to summarized and often misunderstood online language (especially short messaging on mobiles). There is nothing like meeting someone over a hot cup of coffee in a cafe and talk about not just business, but humbly and earnestly asking about each other in their lives.

The Chinese always have a saying for almost anything. 見面三分