Social Media Serendipity

Glenda Watson Hyatt and Ian GordonSome people think that the web and social media has made us more isolated.  They think these tools that allow us to connect with people online, somehow keep us from having to connect with them in “the real world.”  I’ve heard people say that it’s sad that people spend so many hours online, talking to people they will never meet.  They think because the interaction is online, it is somehow less than.  I feel sorry for these people.

How can being able to connect with people from all over the world make us more isolated?  The friendships I have with people I’ve met online are as real as any that started face to face.  I even had a business partner that I have still never met face to face.  1 in 6 couples getting married these days, met online. The fact is though, every time I have had the opportunity to meet someone face to face, that I originally met online, it takes that connection to another level. Others have written eloquently about the very real connections they have made through social media.

For me, social media is not just a way for brands to connect with customers.  At both ends of the post, or tweet, or status update, there is (usually) a person. Last week Olivier Blanchard wrote a blog post meant to encourage some friends that are going through rough times.

He included something his friend posted to Facebook from his cell phone:

if I had not pulled the woman back onto the sidewalk just now, she would no doubt be dead.
holy shit. really.

what if I had gone to lunch at a normal time instead of 2pm? what if I had been texting? what if I had decided to go to subway instead of lamazou for lunch?

Call it luck, or serendipity, or the butterfly effect, but the connections we make every day matter in ways we can never fully comprehend.  So doesn’t it make sense to make as many connections as you can?

Encourage Serendipity

I’m a huge believer in encouraging serendipity.  You can’t create luck but you can help it along.  They say, luck is when opportunity meets preparation.  If you want good things to happen, you have to put yourself in situations that allow for good things to happen.  You have to raise your hand now and then.

I make it a point to meet as many smart people as I can.  This may sound obvious, but you’d be surprised how many overlook this simple life strategy.  This isn’t a business thing, or a networking thing, it’s a life thing.  I can’t tell you how many opportunities that have come from just trying to meet smart people.  I have no preconceived plan, other than to meet people I think I could learn something (anything) from.

Three years ago, I went to Podcamp Toronto.  So many great things came from that, including meeting a lot of smart people.  In one of the sessions I heard Chris Brogan speak, and during the talk he gave out a few books.  At one point he held up I’ll Do It Myself, by Glenda Watson Hyatt (@GlendaWH).  He talked about this amazing person who happens to be living with cerebral palsy, and how she’s written a book and bangs out a few blog posts a week, all by typing with only her left thumb.  He asked if anyone would be inspired by reading her story.  I raised my hand.

I was inspired by Glenda.  I wrote a post about it that she found, and I have been lucky enough to get to know her a bit through twitter. When I heard she was coming to the Toronto area for a business project, I reached out to see if we could meet.  We got together for coffee last weekend and before long, we were geeking out showing each other our favorite iPad apps.  By the end of that conversation, I had shown her something that gave her some business ideas, and she had done the same for me.

Neither of us set out to “pick the brain” of the other.  We both just wanted to meet someone face to face, that we had gotten to know online.   We both left with a new friend and a head full of ideas.  Not bad for a friday night if you ask me.

  • Wendy

    Excellent point of view.

  • http://iangordon.me Ian Gordon

    Thanks!

  • http://iangordon.me Ian Gordon

    Thanks!

  • http://iangordon.me Ian Gordon

    Thanks!

  • David Mills

    have you ever read any of sherry turkle’s books?  one of her most recent — “alone together: why we expect more from technology and less from each other” — examines the issue.  i certainly agree with all the “positives” that you cited in social media’s defense. yet at the same time you have to admit their is the potential for “isolation” when you observe (as we did recently) a family of four seated together at a posh resort dining room who managed to eat breakfast while each silently thumbed their crackberries and iphones, without saying one word to each other

    • http://iangordon.me Ian Gordon

      I have not read Sherry Turkle. Thanks for the recommendation!  I’m not convinced that technology can be blamed for bad manners.  I’ve seen what you described a thousand times- Someone looks down at the BB mid sentence in a conversation, or the silent family scenario you describe. We have become quite rude in general.  But before blackberry, there were a thousand dads that silently stared down at the newspaper during dinner. Families stared silently at the TV during breakfast, before the DS or iPod Touch.  I don’t think technology isolates us or makes us rude, but it certainly makes it easier, and amplifies the problem!

  • http://iangordon.me Ian Gordon

    I have not read Sherry Turkle. Thanks for the recommendation!  I’m not convinced that technology can be blamed for bad manners.  I’ve seen what you described a thousand times- Someone looks down at the BB mid sentence in a conversation, or the silent family scenario you describe. We have become quite rude in general.  But before blackberry, there were a thousand dads that silently stared down at the newspaper during dinner. Families stared silently at the TV during breakfast, before the DS or iPod Touch.  I don’t think technology isolates us or makes us rude, but it certainly makes it easier, and amplifies the problem!