Steph, Mary, Me, Jim

I think I might have been a social media geek before social media was cool.

Ten years ago I was active in a Yahoo group comprised of Mac-based graphic designers and prepress people. As online relationships started to build, the list became more of a free-for-all where people talked about their personal lives, bashed Windows (a lot, sorry PC users), debated religion and politics and just chatted as friends do.

Last weekend we traveled to Minnesota for a family occasion and got to meet two of our friends from the old group. We had a wonderful breakfast and great conversation as old friends do when they reconnect. Here we are in the lobby of our hotel after breakfast.

This experience got me thinking about the phenomenon of online life and connection. What I love about Twitter is that it’s the same mix as the old-school email connection: sharing of technical help and resources, friendly banter and relationship building.

Online friendships are unique in that they often cross generational, socio-economic, ethnic and geographic boundaries much more easily than in-person interaction. First impressions of people we meet online are based on expression of thoughts, not external characteristics. What would a 50-year-old suburban homemaker have in common with hip 20-somethings?

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Much more than I’d have thought, it turns out. We connect around shared interests, learn together and work toward common goals. But I’m not sure any of us would have been drawn to one another in quite the same way if our first meeting had been face-to-face.

The other day I was part of a panel on social media and an audience member asked if any of us thought Google Wave would kill Twitter. My answer was maybe, but I’m not sure it will change things that much for me. Twitter is just a tool. I connected in the late 90s via email, I do it now through Twitter and Facebook and I’m sure my online interaction will continue to evolve as the tools change.

But I have to wonder: what will it look like in 2019? I can’t wait to find out.

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