Am I Social?

Social: 2. Seeking or enjoying the companionship of others; friendly; sociable; gregarious.” – Dictionary.com

Last week I had the opportunity to speak at the 140 Character Conference in Vancouver, WA with my friend Bruce Elgort on the topic of Social Business Strategies. In addition, I was the official conference videographer and had the privilege of not only capturing the dynamic of the speakers and the event itself, but also to interview several emergency managers, local business owners and marketing executives about their social media usage during the work day as well as at home. The result of the project and the conference was an eye-opening glimpse at what it means for me to be social, online and offline.

For the majority of the people at the conference, being social means they are active participants on social networks like Twitter and Facebook. They have thousands of followers and friends, in a digital-sense, which means they are sociable, have influence and understand the value that social media brings to life. Me, I have a lot of followers on Twitter, I converse with people throughout the world, I am social. Especially in regards to the definition of social as written above. I am brave. I take risks on reaching out to people I otherwise don’t know. I am really social. Or so I keep telling myself.

The truth of whether I am social or not lies in the reality that online I hide behind a digital bravado, a confidence in a digital mask (known as an avatar which ironically is a photo of me) that exists to protect the real me from being hurt or misunderstood. What happens when I am not at the mercy of my digital device and I have to be social face to face with real people? Do I still have that bravado or does it melt away and become awkwardness?

Over the past year, I have invested a lot of time and energy in becoming a real-life social being, no longer introverted, but extroverted, seeking to be inspired and fueled by the passion of others. There have been, and continue to be, moments of awkwardness, anxiety and straight-up fear. But there have also been tremendous highs of conversing with amazing people, sharing insights and thoughts, and expanding my world in a way that online social networks can’t even come close to copying.

As much as I like the world of social media, it will never replace the real-life connections, opportunities and emotions that face to face conversations bring. It will always be second place. Always.

Am I social?

Yes, I am.

Are you social?

Let’s have coffee together and find out.

  • when you asked me the question, “what does it mean to be social” during our chat, i almost completely blanked. i hadn’t thought about that question before. i’m still ammending my answer in my head 🙂 i hope to have a better answer for you someday.

    • Anonymous

      I don’t know many people that can really answer the question truthfully.

      • my very first tweetup was chock full of uncomfortable convos and extended
        pauses. i feel though that twitter has made me a little better and
        conversing with people i’ve never met before. that doesn’t always translate
        well to the people i already know.

  • when you asked me the question, “what does it mean to be social” during our chat, i almost completely blanked. i hadn’t thought about that question before. i’m still ammending my answer in my head 🙂 i hope to have a better answer for you someday.

  • Mary Rarick

    Like you, I’m an introvert, Chris. But I’ve found that social media tools have allowed me the opportunity to get to know people before meeting them in person, minimizing my anxiety.

    • Anonymous

      Good insight Mary. The tools do help, I agree.

  • I guess I might be a rare breed? I grew up playing soccer on various teams, always new kids rotating in and out. In high school I straddled the line between soccer jock, theater stage crew, and various extra curricular activities. 
    I think this has allowed me to come down on the extrovert side where I am pretty comfortable walking into any room, and finding a conversation. 
    Seems to be an odd mix as I hear a lot of people identifying like Chris does as an introvert who has been able to use social media to help reach past that and build new connections. 

    I think all this leads up to a great point that I heard from @tacanderson last night. 

    “Social isn’t about how people interact on a web page, its about how they act in real life” 

    Use the tools you have whether social or otherwise to help move past uncomfortable situations and enable personal growth. 

    (ok so I rambled a bit)

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for sharing Sean, I appreciate the ramble.  😉
      I wonder, do the tools help people move past uncomfortable situations? To get past social awkwardness, one has to be willing to be awkward, and outside of the digital realm, this can produce a lot of anxiety and fear for people.

      • I completely understand. My ex-wife has an anxiety problem when in large or new situations. So it is very much something I have been around. I think the right application of tools can help. ie: print out of google maps/pictures/etc of a new place your going, or other ways to scope out an event beforehand. 

        It is very much dependent on the person and what they are willing to do to enable themselves though.