People often ask me how I got to be this way.

I’m known in my online community as a “connector”…that person who easily flows in and out of various communities, blending from one conversation to the next. I can talk about lots of different things, with lots of different people, from CEOs to students, musicians to scientists, and anywhere in between. I’m proud of my ability to connect with people, and to connect people to each other. Over the years, I’ve discovered some really effective and simple ways to connect, so today I thought I’d share a few with you.

1. Be On.
To really connect in the online world, you have to spend a significant amount of time online. This means, you need to be out here doing actual stuff. And yes, that actual stuff can be blogging, sharing photos on Flickr, Tweeting, Facebooking, and all those things that so many people think are such huge time wasters. Well, I’m here to tell you, you can’t meet other people by sitting passively, reading the stream, and not contributing. It just doesn’t work that way.  And I don’t care if you’re shy. I’m shy too. But I do it anyway. And if I say something dumb, or unpopular, I dust myself off and move on. For all the dumb things I say on Twitter, I end up with a few gems, and LOTS of good connections. And that is good enough for me.

2. Be Curious.
I am curious to a fault and for that reason, the Internet has been the best thing and the worst thing that has ever happened to me. Every day when I launch my web browser, I am truly excited by what awaits me. Hyperlinks really do make me downright giddy. Even though I’ve been doing it for 14 years now, fact that I can simply click on words that take me to information still amazes me. How lucky we are to have all of this at our fingertips.

So why wouldn’t you be crazy curious what’s out here on this incredible, vast resource? Why wouldn’t you want to explore, every single day, what other people are doing and creating and feeling and thinking? Curiosity gives you things to connect to. Be infinitely curious, and you’ll infinitely connect.

3. Be Nice.
Every day I see people online, not being nice. Someone will link to a blog post, or share something they think is awesome with other people. They’ll talk from the heart about what interests them, what moves them, or what they love. And suddenly, they get replies back with snide, snarky, or negative remarks – rude comments about how they are doing it wrong. I believe that some people just like to criticize for no reason, and poke holes in other people’s stuff. I believe that sucks.

Now, I’m all for constructive criticism. I applaud intelligent discourse online. It’s one of the main reasons I’m here. But when I see people pointing out flaws just for the sake of pointing out flaws? It makes me crazy. It’s not productive. It’s just simply not nice.

Want to truly connect? You don’t have to be a Polyanna, but you do have to be nice. Here’s an example. Let’s say this guy, George, sees a typo in someone’s blog post. Thinking he’s being helpful, George, immediately posts a comment and tweets an @reply telling the blog writer, and the world that “voyeurism” is spelled incorrectly. Well, perhaps George should have considered sending a private message. And before our friend George does that, maybe he should consider that it’s entirely possible that he is not the ONLY one who has noticed the foible? That perhaps, the blogger has already gotten 15 emails and 35 @replies and 14 Facebook messages letting her (and the rest of the world) know about the problem (Honestly – I’ve seen people go through this more than once).

I’m all for being helpful, but do consider criticisms wisely before posting. Do you want to be helpful? Great. Just make sure you’re being nice, too. And those turkeys who insist on always getting the upper hand or the last word in the conversation? They just need to get a life.

In the end, connecting is not rocket science. It’s easy, if you just put yourself out there on a regular basis, wonder about everything, and above all, just be a nice person. Try it, you’ll see!

[photo credit: szacharias on Flickr]