On Kitchen Parties and Social Networks

I’ve been fortunate to spend a good chunk of time in Newfoundland and Labrador. Even though I’m not from the Eastern part of Canada, I feel very in tune with the people there. Perhaps it’s in my blood, because my Dad is from New Brunswick. Perhaps I can relate to the culture because I grew up on an isolated island on the West coast. Perhaps it’s my family’s Scottish roots. Whatever the reason, I have a really special place in my heart for that part of the country.

One of my favourite things to do in Newfoundland is go to kitchen parties. The best parties always end up in the kitchen. The East coast kitchen party is a legendary event. It’s all about friends, music and stories. Kitchen parties can happen at any time of the day or night, and it’s a come as you are kind of affair. People drop in and out as they please, have a drink, say hi, meet new people, see old friends, and share a laugh or a story. Everyone is welcomed with open arms to participate, whether it’s telling a story or playing a tune. It just makes you feel good to be there.

Not unlike the social network.

In a social network, I can show up when I want and leave when I want. I can talk to my friends or make new friends and bring them into the conversation. I can do it any time of the day or night. I can tell stories. I can listen to stories. It definitely makes me laugh often and hard. I feel welcome in this space. I am encoruaged to share my stories as much as the next person. And I feel good being there.

When I think about what really motivates me to be involved in social networks, I guess it’s because I get a lot of the same things out of it that I get from going to parties. I’ve never been to an East coast party where I didn’t meet someone new, learn something new, hear wonderful stories and laugh my butt off in the process. And it seems like with my online life these days, I meet new people, learn new things and hear really great stories every single day. And I absolutely bust a gut much of the time too.

So, I believe the essence of both the kitchen party and the social network is to connect people.

Lately, I’ve been working on some ways to teach people who are new to the concept about social networks and social media. Technology has a tendency to be very impersonal. To the outside world, there is a lack of understanding about how much of a connection one can really make through a keyboard and mouse.

Comparing the social network to something everyone can relate to, like a party, starts to foster some kind of understanding of what the real benefits are. It doesn’t matter if you are a blogger, a Twitterer, or an Instant Messenger…just like it doesn’t matter if you’re a late night kitchen partier or an afternoon barbequer. It’s about the incredible things that can happen when people connect with each other. And that’s something anyone can understand.

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