I consider myself a networker. On the Strengths Finder assessment, one of my top five is WOO (winning others over). I am a major E on the Myers Briggs. So I tend to spend time thinking through how best to manage the network of friends, associates, partners, and business relationships that have been cultivated over the years. In high school, I knew all of my classmates by first and last name. In college, I had friends in virtually every fraternity house, sorority house, club, association, and dorm. When I first started my "career" just after college, I was keeping names on a yellow notebook pad, and occasionally putting business cards in a drawer. Amazing that was only 14 years ago.
At that point in the mid 90's, my network (and probably yours as well) was really defined by a rolodex of business cards of people I had met in person. Then along came email and database management and so your network became defined by your outlook contacts or by a spreadsheet in Excel.
Now, your network is defined by a varied number of relational webs- facebook, linkedin, twitter, blogs, email, myspace, etc. This new phenomenon has allowed our networks to expand exponentially beyond people we actually MEET or KNOW or TALK to in person. And maybe even folks we have nothing in common with currently.
Used to "networking" meant you "worked a room" and were "shaking hands and patting backs." Now, in many ways networking is defined by social media and your ability to win someone over to your digital community at large.
The reality is, you (and I) have never been more connected, and had the tools to stay connected, but in many ways never so disconnected.
When's the last time you actually sent a hand written card to someone? When's the last time you spent a significant amount of time on the phone with someone, instead of a quick text or facebook message? Most folks don't email or call their network, but instead send a quick tweet or blog post or facebook message.
This means we all are being forced to change. Change how we both build a network as well as manage our network. And change is difficult.