Taking Social Media on the Road: Don’t Leave Home Without It

by Ken Mueller on March 14, 2012 · 16 comments

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bus 300x300 Taking Social Media on the Road: Dont Leave Home Without ItToday’s guest post is from my friend Shawn Smucker who is currently in the midst of 4-month, 10-thousand mile journey through 33 states with his family. While on the road, Shawn is spending a lot of time meeting up with fellow-writers and friends. I asked him to share some of his thoughts on how he is using social media as part of this trip. You can follow his journey over on his blog.

* * * * *

Online friendships aren’t real relationships…are they?

There’s no substitute for spending real time with someone, face to face…is there?

All these social websites do is give you a superficial glance into someone’s life…don’t they?

* * * * *

My family’s bus (affectionately named “Willie”) pulled into a Walmart parking lot in Gainesville, Florida. A friend I met in the blogosphere recommended the location; in fact, she and I had never met in “real life.” We didn’t even have each other’s cell phone numbers – all of our correspondence had occurred via Twitter or Facebook.

Her black minivan pulled up beside our big old bus. I saw her twins in the back seat, and even though it was the first time I had ever seen them in “real life,” because of her blog posts and Facebook pictures, I felt like I knew them. My wife and I got out and approached her van.

Before I knew it, I was hugging this stranger. But she wasn’t a stranger – she was a friend. Because of her writing I knew her as well as, if not better than, many of my hometown friends.

* * * * *

The next day we were in Orlando. I walked into a quaint wine bar sometime around dusk, looking hesitantly from one side of the room to the next. For a moment I realized I didn’t have Stacy’s cell phone number – all arrangements had been made on Twitter and a Facebook Events page. I hoped I had the right place.

“Stacy?” I asked, but I knew it was her.

“Shawn!”

We gave each other a big hug even though we had never seen each other in “real life” before. I felt like I was catching up with a friend from college. She is a wonderful writer, a wise person. Within minutes our discussion entered the deep realms of relationships and writing, raising children and theology.

Later in the night many of Stacy’s other writer friends joined us. I even got to meet Billy Collins, a two-term Unites States poet laureate. We all became fast friends, based simply on our common friend. Which was based simply on internet interactions.

* * * * *

Some people would point to my “real life” meetings with these previously internet-only friends as proof that there is no substitute for face-to-face interaction. But I would disagree. You see, I think our ability to relate so quickly when we first met is not evidence that meeting in person is better – I think it’s evidence that the relationship we had formed up to that point on the internet was genuine. It was just as real and effective and beneficial as any relationship predicated on a handshake, or a smile, or a hello. Meeting in person only served as an extension to an already existing friendship.

What do you think about friendships based solely on blogs, Facebook, and Twitter? What has been your experience when you met people in “real life” for the first time?

 Taking Social Media on the Road: Dont Leave Home Without It
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14 comments
Jacob Yount
Jacob Yount

Wonderful accounts & I'm in agreement, 100%.  As Rebecca said below, our online community sees a side that we may not express on a day-to-day basis and many times, familiarity with the folks whom you are always around, tends to breed contempt.  For me, this "online stuff" is here to stay.    

WritingJoy
WritingJoy

@tamaraoutloud bwahahaha! You said "full-frontal!"

wordgirltalks
wordgirltalks

I've actually addressed this myself just recently.  I've made a new group of "friends" through social media outlets and started wondering how well we ever know anyone...regardless of how you meet them.  I would say that I've begun to know people on twitter better maybe then some people I  know in real life.  And whether its b/c a lot of that list are writers or not, I think we share more things out there b/c we aren't face to face.  Just b/c you know someone in "real life" doesn't mean you know them any better than the people we are connecting with out here.

RebeccaCicione
RebeccaCicione

I can completely identify with this post - I've made countless friends via social media, and then met them later on while traveling. And honestly, those are some of my really close friends now! People used to call me out on it, thinking it was super odd....but I'm pretty sure it isn't! 

 

It really depends on how we portray ourselves via social media. - whether it's personal insight or strictly business posts. Granted, a lot of people are totally different than they are online. But those that stay true to both are easy to connect and build friendships with! 

Leigh Kramer
Leigh Kramer

Many of my blog friends have become dear, real life friends. I've spent time wondering why this is and part of it may be that blogging allows us to skip the small talk and head right to the marrow of relationship. We get a good sense of who people are through social media...and if we don't like what we see, we don't have to follow or read them anymore. So by choosing to read or interact, we really are building a friendship and one that stands a chance of standing on its own two feet once we have real life time together.

tamaraoutloud
tamaraoutloud

"I think our ability to relate so quickly when we first met is not evidence that meeting in person is better – I think it’s evidence that the relationship we had formed up to that point on the internet was genuine." Yes, this is exactly it.

 

But I suppose it depends on how we share ourselves online-- if we only show our best sides or certain personality traits, if we only show a caricature of ourselves, then we're not being honest and real, and of course a meeting in real life would feel strange and disconnected. But when we offer a more genuine, complete self online, meeting in person just adds dimension to a real relationship that's already been built.

 

And I would never just offer a handshake to a real friend; that's why you got a hug. :)

tamaraoutloud
tamaraoutloud

@WritingJoy And I meant it. ;) You & @ScottB3nn3tt gonna come get some?!

shawnsmucker
shawnsmucker

 @wordgirltalks That's a great point: "(I) started wondering how well we ever know anyone...regardless of how you meet them."  This whole idea of virtually meeting people is so new that we don't give it the same weight as shaking hands, but it's just as easy (for some people) to wear masks in person as it is online.

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

 @RebeccaCicione I agree completely, Rebecca, and it's kind of how you and I got started as well. I'm glad we met the way we did, and should we meet in person again, it will be very natural and we'll have a lot of fun!

shawnsmucker
shawnsmucker

 @HopefulLeigh I think you're right, Leigh, and especially when it comes to writers. I think people who read my writing know me better than people who meet me in person, or even those who spend time with me.

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

 @HopefulLeigh I couldn't agree more. i've made quite a few friends on the blogs that I choose to make a part of my regular reading, as well as on Facebook and Twitter. It can be a wonderful thing.

shawnsmucker
shawnsmucker

 @tamaraoutloud Thanks for proving your "real life" friendship and spending an entire day with our crazy clan!

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

 @tamaraoutloud Presenting our "real" selves online is key. I knew Shawn online before I met him offline, and when I met him in person, he was the same person. I didn't end up scratching my head wondering why he was different. And being real doesn't mean revealing everything about ourselves, but at least not trying to present some sort of facade.

WritingJoy
WritingJoy

@tamaraoutloud that's the plan!!! Can't wait.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] rest of today’s post is over at Inkling Media. To read about my take on the validity of internet friendships, click [...]

  2. [...] friend Shawn Smucker, who has written a number of posts for me here on my blog, most recently about taking social media on the road with him as he and his family travel the [...]

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