Reverb10: December 7 – Community. Where have you discovered community, online or otherwise, in 2010? What community would you like to join, create or more deeply connect with in 2011?
Of course I have the usual communities–my family, my church, my workplace, etc. But when I say the word ‘community’ I immediately think of Twitter.
Twitter is something hard to explain to someone who is not on Twitter. It’s nothing like Facebook, which surprises most people. On Facebook, I am connected to people I already know–they “friend” me because they went to high school with me, or they used to work with me, or their kid and my kid play soccer together. But on Twitter, I follow people I find interesting (or I follow news sources, also interesting) and sometimes those people follow me back, but not always. For example, I doubt the New York Times cares to hear about my day via Twitter. But I certainly care to follow their Twitter feed, and I do.
So how is this a community? Well, a crazy thing happens when you start to follow people who have similar thoughts, values and lifestyles as you. You start to have conversations with total strangers, but they are total strangers that could be your best friends, if only you had met them in college or at your first job. Through random snippets of conversation, you learn that the girl who owns the photography business is also having trouble getting her five-year old out of bed in the morning. You exchange ideas, and you bond. It’s just like having coffee with a girlfriend–except virtually. Or maybe someone in your industry tweets about a topic that interests you and you respond. Soon, through some casual back and forth, you have a new business contact. (and yes, I have scored several freelance projects this way).
To the skeptical, it sounds invasive or creepy. But it’s important to understand that on Twitter, just like in the real world, you control how much you share. And you quickly figure out whose tweets you find annoying, or whose morals you could never agree with, and you decide– just like in real life–whether you want to continue conversing with them.
You also quickly figure out who you want to hear more about; who you find interesting. I have met some truly amazing and wonderful people through Twitter–almost all of whom I would never have met in real life, because despite most of them living in my same town, our paths might never have crossed.
And then there’s the ultimate coming together of the Twitter community: the Tweetup. I met many of the local people I follow on Twitter at several Tweetups initiated by the Lexington Social Media Club last year. I’ve also had the chance to meet in person, and have a few drinks, with those friends who make me laugh out loud on a daily basis over the internet (Someone, I forget who, dubbed the group, “LexTwitterati”). So now I can put a face to some of my virtual community.
I have no idea if I will join another group or community in 2011. But I do know I will continue to gather information through Twitter, to share my thoughts and ideas, and to form new friendships, that without the Twitter community, I might never have realized.