My husband and I were watching the news the other night while eating dinner as we do. There was a story, which I don’t remember exactly what it was about, but it made some reference to people not interacting with strangers as much over stock footage of people in public places staring at their phones instead of interacting with those around them. Let’s put aside for a moment how ridiculous we all think these stories are and get serious for a minute. At the time I said to my husband the exact opposite is true for me. I am an introvert who is mildly terrified of interacting with people I don’t know or don’t know well. I am never, ever going to strike up a conversation with a random person in a public space on my own. It’s just not going to happen, and even if someone strikes up a conversation with me unless they are super chatty and can carry it all by themselves I’m trying to think of ways to get out of it as fast as I can. On the other hand I have made many friends online via Twitter. Some of these friends are still online only as we haven’t had occasion to meet in person because we are literally spread across the globe. Other people who I initially met via Twitter I have had the pleasure of meeting in person and I now consider friends in real life.
A few of them are Baltimore people or people outside the library world, but the vast majority of them are librarians just because library conferences bring us together in the same place and give us an opportunity to meet. These are people who I have enjoyed interacting with online and gotten to know that way so that by the time we meet in person we already feel like friends and not strangers. If it weren’t for Twitter I might sit next to one of them in a conference session and never strike up a conversation and meet them, but because I’ve had the opportunity to get to know them online and feel comfortable I’m happy to get together with them in person when we get the chance. I’m already starting to make plans to meet up with some Twitter friends I haven’t met in real life yet at the American Library Association conference next month and am in fact sharing a hotel room with a friend I met via Twitter years ago. If you’re reading this and want to be part of those plans let me know.
So sorry Brian Williams, but I don’t buy your story about social media making us more isolated or whatever it was about. If it weren’t for social media I would actually have way fewer people in my life. For those of us who are shy and a little scared of talking to strangers social media can be a great way to actually expand our social circles not just online but in real life too.