Connecting in the Offline World
There’s an unusual trend happening in my life right now, in terms of how I’m connecting with people. I’m doing a lot of “offline” stuff. Perhaps it’s just the nature of my schedule of late, perhaps it’s intentional, perhaps it’s fate…but I am finding some great richness in the interactions I’m having with the non-geeks in my life.
For instance, thanks to my offline friend Ray, I am now on the Board of Directors of a fantastic local organization called SAW Video Co-op. SAW is a place where local video artists have access to resources, training and equipment to produce their own independent videos. It’s a super vibrant community. Yes, you can draw some parallels between video geeks (of which I am one) and Internet geeks (of which I am also one), but essentially this is an offline experience for me. I’m participating in in-person meetings. The events I’ll be attending are happening in a self-contained way – people are physically present, unlike a Tweetathon, a webinar, or a Twestival. Some might argue that an organization like SAW could benefit from some of these online experiences, but that’s another post altogether.
Another example of connecting in the offline world occurred last night at my Dad’s 71st birthday party. Other than the fact that my Mom sent an email to us kids to inform us of the time and date of the gathering, the event took place offline. My brother and SIL, my two nephews were there. So were my parents’ close friends, who we consider our aunts and uncles. Everyone was talking all at the same time. We ate birthday pie, and cheescake, and drank vanilla coffee. The kids ran around. I built a Lego house out of the same Lego set we had when I was a kid. My Dad told stories. My Mom giggled in the kitchen with my aunts. We were all there, and present.
We spend so much time cultivating our online relationships that sometimes we forget that there is a whole world out there that is not so dependent on connectivity. My parents, and aunts and uncles, though they sometimes use the Internet, don’t RELY on it for their daily interactions. They still pick up the phone. They even mail letters and cards and stuff once in a while. They spend time together, in the same physical space, if they want to connect with friends.
Connecting with others online over the past few years has been a life altering event for me. I’ve become close friends with people I’d have otherwise never met. I’ve gotten phenomenal new business opportunities. My life has definitely been enriched by my experience, and the Web will undoubtedly continue to play a major role in my life.
However, I am really beginning to appreciate my offline life a lot more. It operates at a much slower pace. It doesn’t require the same kind of immediacy, because people are just more relaxed when they are facing each other. Nothing is left to the imagination when you can see someone’s body language and facial expressions. You get the whole conversation, because you are seeing, and listening, and touching, and ultimately understanding a lot more.
I’m not just talking about moving your online world to your offline. We are being conferenced to death right now – there’s all of these events we can go to where we can meet each other in the flesh. That works well for some, and it’s fine. But look around you. Remember those people you knew before the Internet? They are still there. Pick up the phone. Go knock on their door. Have that experience too.
And, if you are still unsure about the power of connecting in the physical world, watch Matt. Now that’s how you bring people together.