I had breakfast with an online friend this morning. It was the first time I had met Jasmin Tragas in person, but it felt like we were just friends and colleagues catching up for a chat.
We talked kids and spouses, social media, continuous partial attention, ambient intimacy, books and a bunch of other subjects of interest. It was fun, but unlike what usually happens when you meet someone for the first time, the complex and challenging social barrier of introduction was missing — we just didn’t need it as our online connectedness through tools like Facebook and Twitter had already done the hard work for us.
What I mean by this is that through use of social media tools, people who work around the corner or across the world from each other are able to overcome the challenges around meeting and learning about someone (colleague, friend, someone who shares an interest, whatever) and jump straight in and do great work, share knowledge, have engaging conversations and build relationships to a deeper level more quickly. For me, this is one of the key benefits, if not almost the entire value proposition of social media.
I experienced the same effect at Office 2.0 earlier this year, when I was able to physically meet a significant number of the folks I speak and collaborate with almost every day. Again, we were immediately able to engage in meaningful conversations and talk in detail about topics of mutual interest without the social introduction barrier.
The barrier breakdown factor is one that I mention fairly often in conversations about social media. When you explain to people that Twitter isn’t just about knowing when people are going to the bathroom and Facebook isn’t just about sharing photos and comments about the weekend barbecue, and couch it in terms of achieving goals in a more efficient and speedy way, it can make a difference to building an understanding of social media value.