I’m addicted to social media. I love the instant response to comments posted on Facebook and Twitter, in many cases from people I’ve never heard of, let alone spoken to. I’m a relatively recent convert, having fannied about with Twitter since joining in April 2009, watching from the sidelines and learning from others before throwing myself into it wholeheartedly earlier this year. The response has been incredible; new online friends, new online colleagues, business opportunities and fantastic contributors to my Scotland on Sunday column.
But there was something missing. Just a little something. But it was definitely missing. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but when I closed my laptop before bed late in the evening – or more likely in the very early hours of the morning – it bubbled away in the back of my mind, a minor agitation that quieted at times but never really completely vanished.
Last week I had my Eureka moment. I discovered what, for me, had been missing; it was the ‘social’ part of social media. #themeet140 has just closed the loop. I no longer have an agitation, I now have an effervescence.
Meeting up IRL with friends I’d been chatting to for months, with whom I’d been sharing both exciting news and sad times with, was the elusive link in the chain I’d been seeking. Recognising some individuals from their avatar was easy, others who don’t use photographs, not so much. But all of them, without exception, were true to their profile, the image, the persona, the character they portray online. Generosity of spirit, humour, transparency, integrity and a desire to help others were in abundance.
The atmosphere in the room was one of anticipation; would we all like each other? Would there be embarrassing silences as is so often the case when a group of strangers converges in the one space? Would it be a one off event, quietly slipping off the calendar with everyone secretly relieved they wouldn’t have to endure that all over again?
Absolutely not. There were no strangers. There was no silence. The buzz, the laughter, the open armed welcomes to strangers, more akin to those of long-lost relatives or friends, were – I now understand – typical of what happens at a #themeet140 event.
There has been some cynicism about such events, and in particular about the @scotland140 event planned for June 17. That’s a shame, and it’s not the norm in the Twitterverse, which I have found to be fair and honest. I can only hope that this remains in the minority, indeed, I hope that the minority join the majority; after all, you shouldn’t knock it till you’ve tried it.
The power of social media never ceases to amaze me. But the power of social media, harnessed to the power of real life friendship, is simply immense.