It is no secret that I love social media and the Internet. Twitter and this blog are my playgrounds, with a few dashes to Facebook added for seasoning. One thing that amazes me is the fact that people still think social media is going to ruin interpersonal communication in the real world. This makes me cringe every time because the exact opposite has happened to me.
My love of social media really began during the political conventions leading up to the November 4, 2008 elections. I didn't have any friends at the time that would watch the speeches with me, so I logged onto Twitter and was suddenly bombarded by hundreds of people talking about what was happening. The best part was that not only was I interacting with others watching from afar, but also getting first hand accounts from convention goers. At the time, I had no idea how much of an impact Twitter would have on me, I just was having fun bashing politicians and discussing the issues with real people scattered all over the globe.
I believe it was sometime in January or February when Art and I had a conversation on Twitter and made a decision to meet at the Herkimer for happy hour. Art was the first person I met who I had known exclusively through Twitter before meeting in real life. Though he was not the first person I had met through the Internet, (I had joined a few meetup.com groups previously) he was the first person I met through an online social network. Since then we have remained good friends.
Of course Art was just the beginning, in the last year or so, I've met a lot of people because of Twitter. Some I met because they knew someone I met on Twitter, others I met only because they were on Twitter. In fact, at last count, my In Real Life list has 89 members. Some of these have only been meetings in passing, but many of them have involved fun times, great conversations, and a few have become close friends. Add at least a dozen people I've met who aren't actually on Twitter and my social circle has been expanded by over 100 people just because of a little box saying "What are you doing?"
What I'm trying to say is, if anyone says our Internet connected networks are going to ruin our personal lives, destroy our ability to communicate, or stop us from meeting new people, well, they are crazy. Unless you are already an introvert and do not enjoy meeting new people, interacting online is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to social media.