Social Networking in My Life
I have recently had the rewarding experience of meeting a few people IRL (in-real-life) that I had only previously “known” through Twitter and the Interwebs.
This experience caused me to think back to how social-networking has changed the way I meet people.
Upon reflection, I realized that I have been “social networking” on the Internet for a really long time. When I was in high-school (in the mid-nineties!), I spent time in the “metaphysics” chat-room on AOL because I had briefly been exposed to Philosophy, and for some reason my football buddies weren’t that interested in chatting about it.
As time has progressed and my life has included time spent living in Texas, on both Coasts, in the Midwest, in England and now in Boston, I have accumulated a group of people that I can connect with on most topics…
Twitter is Different
But now thanks to Twitter, I have the ability to meet new people around the world and interact with them on a variety of topics, primarily around technology, but I also to get to “know” them in a way that wasn’t possible back in the AOL days.
Watching people’s Twitter-streams flow by is almost like listening to a series of radio-stations featuring the contents and interests of a couple hundred interesting people all around the world. By briefly tuning into these streams, I get a glimpse into their thoughts, experiences, and passions, and I start to develop a picture of who they are.
Especially for those who are more active participants, I feel a sense of ambient intimacy with them as we react to the various different shared and unique experiences we talk about on Twitter.
Why Meeting IRL Can Be Awkward
Whenever we take this stream of communications and collapse it into a traditional social setting, I must admit that it is a little unsettling at first.
I think part of the reason is that because of Twitter we have put the cart before the horse.
Ordinarily, when you first “meet” someone, you make judgments about them based on a brief introduction…maybe you judge them by how they look, what clothes they are wearing, how clever they are, etc.
You get to know them gradually over time, and maybe after a month or so you can figure out what kind of music they like, what their temperament is like on a Sunday afternoon, and how they feel about relationships.
But thanks to the Interwebs and Twitter, I have been “meeting” people that I already “know” on a more extensive level than some of my acquaintances from work and school.
Twitter Is Making Me More Open-minded
Probably the coolest thing about this experience is that my IRL interactions have become more open-minded as a result.
People I might have previously excluded from my interactions based on some immature judgmental part of my nature, I now embrace.
As a result, I think my horizons have been broadened, and hopefully that means I will have more extensive, exciting and interesting relationships. Creating the possibility of meeting people from different walks of life and backgrounds has a ton of upside.
Living A Public Life Is Hard
Even though Twitter creates the upside of meeting new people, it is not always easy being so public and open with your interactions. The whole experience of living a public and open life on Twitter and on this blog has changed my life in many ways.
From potential employers to potential friends, people now have much more fodder with which to form their initial judgments about me and my personality.
Hopefully, with more nuanced data we can come to more nuanced conclusions. I think we should, and I am optimistic that we will.
In the meantime, I am looking forward to meeting more of you Tweeps IRL sometime soon.