There are plenty of freelance writers out there who have never logged into to Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn and still do just fine at finding work. I’d never claim otherwise. I would say, however, that those writers probably do their fair share of networking in other ways.
You don’t have to be part of online networks to succeed. I’d argue that there are certain niches that they can help with, but it’s not a must. There are days, in fact that I’d recommend against it — I’ve spent far too much time perfecting a profile here or adding a tag line there. I’ve gotten minimal amounts of work through most of the networks I’m involved in. I find a fair amount of value in these websites because of the sense of community I’ve found. Given that I work from home, I rely on my online friends to make sure that I don’t talk only to my cats in a given day.
More valuable than my online networking, however, is any face-to-face meeting I can finagle. Flat out, I’m just more likely to get work from an in-person meeting, and I’d bet the same is true for you. Any networking that I can do in real life is extremely valuable. I’d say that an hour spent talking with a random person at the local coffee shop is easily worth an entire day spent networking online.
You don’t need online networking, if you don’t want to mess with it. You do need to get out there and network with real people, however. Personally, I like networking online, but give it a try — then you can tell me if I’m wrong about the importance of the real world.