You can check out any time youd like, but you can never leave.... The Eagles
I was checking into my hotel at SES San Jose last year when I noticed in the lobby a prominent person in our industrysomebody who Ive followed and read for quite some time. As he walked away from the check-in desk, I introduced myself to him and we briefly shook hands. Quickly, I determined that he was giving me a total mobile hello as it was quite clear that I was the only impediment between him and his evening beer / bud / bed. In my entire time in the search industry, this was the only time that I have been so thoroughly blown off by someone.
I do continue to read his writings and still assume that his behavior was a consequence of my catching him at a bad moment rather him being a bad guy. However, because Ive seen so little of him in my social media sphere, there hasnt been any subsequent interaction that could wipe away this bad experience from how I view him.
Our Ongoing Twelationships
One sign of a committed, comfortable long term relationship is when each party can comfortably be together for a long stretch of time without saying anything. The people that we follow and interact with most in our Twitter streams fit that definition to a T.
Twitter is very much like being at a 24/7 party. When youre at the same place with the same people for a long period of time, you start to become quite comfortable in their presence. You get to know their opinions and quirks. You might communicate with them a little or a lot, but as you eavesdrop upon their thoughts and conversations, you get to know them quite intimately.
In a weird way, many times where Ive met people that Ive tweeted with for a long time, the meetings are somewhat anti-climatic. Much of the small talk that governs meeting someone new is dispensed withafter all, weve been through it all before online. It can be a little awkward at the beginning of the conversation because you dont really know their point of reference for you and vice-versa. Ive had people talk to me about a particular tweet I made as if I could immediately know what they are talking about. If I fail to pick up the cue, the conversation ceases to flow. Sometimes the phrase
like ships passing in the night applies to the quality of these interactions.
Yet, Ive never felt bothered or concerned when I didnt quickly jive (or even jive at all) when I met somebody for the first time that Id been following and communicating with via social media. Because, after all, its not like we just met. Were just continuing the ongoing conversation that we started earlier and the fact that were in each others presence is almost incidental. I dont have to be totally on for these particular folks. Their first impressions of me were made in the online realm and even if my wit and twit make me come across as a bit of a git, I am more judged by my previous social media interactions with them than by our introductory meeting. And, once we both get back online, we can pick up the conversation from where it was left off.
I certainly feel accepted and appreciated by the core group of folks that I communicate with on Twitter. My wife sometimes tells me that my Twitter friends arent real friends and I strongly disagree (though I concede its a different type of friendship). In some ways, the relationships are more real because when the mode of communication are short, condensed thoughts, there is no room for the artifice and pretense that keeps people from really getting to know each other.
When you meet somebody offline for the first time, you get distracted by what they look like, what they sound like, whats going on peripheral to the conversation, etc.all things that can get in the way of true interaction. When you meet somebody via Twitter, you get their naked thoughts and communications and they get yours. Once you've been naked with somebody, any future encounters "with clothes on" should be pretty comfortable.