Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Social Connection Across the Virtual/Physical Border

What an exciting year this is turning out to be. My official work has begun to pick up, and I'm pushing personal project internally. In the social media/startup/podcasting/tech sphere I've started to meet up with people in person. Very exciting and interesting to watch.

Online social media is an interesting phenomenon. In a sense it is like the old forums/read news and text based chats in that there is enough distance that a person who is perhaps a bit more shy can feel comfortable speaking in the virtual environment. The interesting twist is that with the addition of video and virtual worlds you begin to feel that you are interacting "for real". While this is true to some extent, real friendships and relationships are created, it has been somewhat startling when you transfer that to the physical realm.

I suppose it is a bit more startling for me. I spent about a year homebound with very little personal interaction beyond the online medium. For that time who I was in groups in online reality (whether virtual worlds or twitter or chats on blogtv etc.) was how I interacted.

The real shock came when I could finally walk well enough to go to a meet up where I knew no one and I found myself feeling uncertain and shy. (This was complicated by the fact that I wasn't sure how to introduce myself, my resume has one name, my public presence has another.) I was shocked at the way I reacted.

Then I thought of how I had acted before my convalescence. Sure I'd join in discussions in groups where I knew people but when it wasn't strictly work based I was on the shy side. Walking up to someone I didn't know and introducing myself was not really something I did.

Here I was expecting myself to act as my outgoing online self, but that hadn't been my modus operandi in the physical world. The contrast is probably why I skipped the meet up for the following couple of months. But I also reflected on my reactions (and got some combo/business cards that make introducing myself much easier.)

Today I went to the Boulder Open Coffee at The Cup. It was a great meet up. I also decided that I was going to embrace my online style and make it my in person style. It was a bit scary at times. I could tell I'm still getting the hang of it but it was promising. And I'm hoping to make it to the New Technology meet up this evening, this time with more confidence.

What I have found is that although the online networks are incredibly powerful (and can cause a person to grow) it is important to go try it out in the physical face to face world. The interaction is different. The combination of the two realms is awesome.

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