You probably know me … I’m the person you met at the airport, a conference or a networking event with whom you now share common interests. I’m the former colleague, high school or college friend with whom you now keep in touch. Or better yet, I’m the one you’ve never actually met in person, yet we know each other almost as well as if we had. People ask me all of the time: how do you do it? How do you meet so many people and sustain the relationship? And why do you care to? For me, the answer isn’t that hard or complex… and it’s most certainly not based solely on the fact that I’m extremely extroverted and needy (which I am).
I believe in connections — both online and offline. And social media has made all of this easier for me. Recently, a friend challenged me to tell him how I knew all of the friends I currently have on Facebook. He and I sat there and refreshed my profile page and each time he randomly chose someone from my friend’s list and asked me how I knew that person. I passed with flying colors. Was I lucky? Maybe. Am I someone who spends too much time on Facebook? More than likely.
I used to think relationships were much more linear: that people would come and go as you moved through each different phase of your life while only a lucky few would become close enough to experience all your life phases with you. With social media, there is no such thing as linear. It’s a tangley weave of connections that intersect and cross over each other the more you connect with friends and colleagues both past and present, and grows even more extensive as you bring more people in it.
I don’t live in a bubble. I’m well aware that, unfortunately, social media has had the opposite effect for some people: enabled walls and broken relationships. But I’m lucky to say that hasn’t been the case for me. Instead, social media did the opposite. It made 2010 the year of the friend in several impactful ways:
We started talking…
… while one or both of us were traveling or while we were networking at a conference. Admittedly, you were most likely forced to talk to me because I started talking to you first. But hey, all friendships have to start somewhere, right? By the end of our conversation, we had become friends on Facebook or connected on LinkedIn. I can’t tell you how many times, over this past year, that I met someone at what would have been a brief encounter, only to have connected to them on any number of social networks and been able sustain that friendship because of that platform.
You decided to follow me..
… or I started following you on Twitter — but who’s keeping track. Regardless, posts were tweeted and retweeted and… the rest is what they call history. In a turn of events, social media is what initially introduced me to you or you to me, and it was also the method in which information, knowledge, and personal quips were shared. But what began as a more professional or social connection developed into a solid friendship over time.
We met way back when…
… we were in high school (or journalism camp). Or college. Or we used to work together. We met in a previous lifetime. It wasn’t social media that introduced the relationship, but it has facilitated our ability to keep up on the personal and professional activities of each others’ lives. Social media has done this so efficiently, it almost begs the question: “who needs an actual reunion?”
So What Will 2011 Be?
Ever wonder what your online connections are like in person? I do. All the time. Not just the ones I’ve never met in person… but also the ones who I haven’t seen for many years. 2010 was the year for establishing friendships. Make 2011 the year for bridging those online friendships to offline ones (and vice versa, if you’re so inclined). So, go to a conference. Meet up with common interest groups. Arrange a get together with former colleagues or classmates. Visit a friend you haven’t seen in 23 years. Attend that dreaded 25 year reunion! Your friendships become much more meaningful when you know the offline person behind the online identity.
So when I reach out to you some time this year and say: “Hey, let’s meet or get together,” you’ll know I’m working on bridging the gap of my own friendships. 😉
Many, many thank yous for your continuous support throughout 2010. I look forward to getting to know all of you better throughout 2011.