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Conferences and Connecting

By On Apr 16 2012, 2:50 pm

With everyone on their way home or already home from RT, I thought I'd chat a bit about conferences from a slightly different point of view.
From the point of view of someone who stays home.
This business we're in is kind of funny in that a lot of the time the isolation can be almost crippling. But then there is the occasional binge of friends and meetings and panels and pitches and parties and fun (or so I've heard).
Yip, it's feast or famine around here.
So how can those of us who don't get to go to the feasts be involved, be in touch, be part of?
Today we have a thousand and one types of social media to help us connect with people. But is it the same as looking someone in the eye? Shaking someone's hand? Getting down with someone to Aretha?
I don't know.
Two weeks ago I went to a talk given by a local cop about protecting our kids online – scared the bejeezes out of me and I immediately came home and put Band Aids over the camera lens on our laptops (do you know that just by clicking on the wrong banner you can get a virus that activates your computer's camera remotely, and the camera can be on even if the little light isn't?) Anyway, the cop said something that stuck with me. He said that today you ask a kid how many friends they have and they'll give you some astronomical number. They'll give you the number of Facebook friends they have–friends they've never actually played with, never actually spoken to–and that can be dangerous because they often allow these 'friends' the same amount of intimacy they would give a friend that lives next door, who goes to school with them and knows their family and shares their life, their real life.
Is this true for us big kids too?
Can we consider our many friends on Twitter, Facebook, Skype, MySpace (do people still use that?), Divas, the blogosphere actual friends? Well, sometimes I think we can. While I don't think we can create the same amount of closeness we have with our friends that knew us when we were young and stupid and have a world of history with, there is a lot to be said for virtual friends. Especially when you're a million miles from everyone and cables and Wi-Fi are the only connections we have to other people like us.
I should get back to what started this ramble… Can we live vicariously through our virtual friends and their tweets, updates and blog posts when we don't get to go to conferences? Maybe? No, it's probably not the same as actually being there…but as my dad used to say, you make do with what you have.
And when you think of it, we're better off today than we were years ago before the explosion of social media. Today we get to read the awesome notes author friends tweet while they're attending panels and talks. We get to see pictures of so-and-so's new shoes instantly uploaded. We get to be part of things in a small way. And that's something. It might not be a feast—it's probably more like a low-calorie lunch—but it something.
So, as I settle in with my second mug of coffee in one hand and my mouse in the other, I'm off to see who said something interesting/smart/inappropriately funny, who wore something interesting/smart/inappropriately funny and who did…well, you get the idea.
Heidi Moore, Editor


4 Responses to “Conferences and Connecting”

  1. Virginia E says:

    Back in the days when long distance traveling was the exception rather than the rule. People kept in touch with those who were no longer local by writing long letters. Some correspondents had face time for major family events, such as funerals. Others, separated by emmigrations, might only meet on paper. If we can call those correspondents “friends”, why can’t online correspondents become friends?

    Personally, I don’t miss two weeks (or more) waiting for my letter to arrive, be read, writing the response, and then the return mail trip. There’s a reason people wrote those looong chatty letters that historians love. People who couldn’t talk, wrote their conversations.

  2. Marie Harte says:

    What a great post. I agree, it’s not the same as being there. And to be honest, though I’ve made some really nice acquaintances via the computer, I don’t know that I’d call those people my friends, per se. It’s hard to connect when nuance isn’t there. Words on a page/monitor don’t mean the same without inflection.

    I totally get you on the Facebook/camera thing. I’m paranoid, but I never plug in the camera unless my kids are Skyping–with my permission. You never know when that camera or mic is really on.

  3. HMoore says:

    @Virginia ~ Agree on not missing the long wait for letters to come through! I grew up in Africa so it was not always waiting for *when* stuff would arrive but often waiting to see *if* it would. There is something to be said for an actual hold-in-your-hand letter though. I have a box of them that I’ve dragged with me around the world a few times. My favorite is a short note my dad wrote to me on the back of someone else’s letter explaining how to set our old VCR. Ahh, snail mail and VCRs, the days when dinosaurs roamed the earth.

    @Marie ~ I think a lot of the time chemistry is involved with how close people can become online (when isn’t it really?) One of my online friends and I chat about a lot of stuff I wouldn’t talk about with “real” friends face-to-face. It’s funny because I know her so well but just might walk by her on the street if she doesn’t look look her avatar.

  4. [...] Oh, and here’s a link to my SP blog post (the one that didn’t kill the server ) [...]

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