People are usually surprised when they find out that I'm an introvert. I think it's because I love meeting people at web conferences. I'm almost addicted to it. I recently went to the An Event Apart conference in DC, and although I'm trying to watch what I eat, I religiously went to the lunches and Special events; just to meet the people.
The thing is, I'm a real introvert, the type that never goes to parties, feels awkward in a crowd, and has to retire from social activities after more than a couple of hours. However, I love meeting folks at these events...which is weird. At one of the tables during lunch, I mentioned that going to these conferences is like attending an awesome high school that I always wish existed when I was a kid.
It's because these people are just like me. It's easy to talk to someone with whom you have lots in common. And evidently, all my social clones assemble and aggregate at these events. I can walk up to just about anyone and geek out and laugh about the same topics. I don't have to explain what kerning or leading is, everyone gets what Twitter is, and I don't have to explain what a phaser is. People walk up to me and say "Why, is that a Github shirt?" and I'm like, "YES!!! You're from my same planet...planet awesome." In contrast, I feel like I can only post pictures of my kids on Facebook, because those friends don't know what I'm talking about. Might as well be speaking Klingon.
It's not that I was super unpopular growing up, it's just that I could never really relate to everyone. I got along with the nerdy outcasts in high school better than everyone else, mostly because I was one myself. I was the classic computer lab aide who quit the basketball team to learn about computers (I'm sure you're making a mental picture of this). People who are different are really interesting. Sometimes those who don't make a lot of friends can make the best friends.
Back to the social media friends thing...So it bothers me that people in the industry judge you by how many connections they have. Trust me, I do it too. I peek at the number of followers I have and compare it with how my associates are doing. I feel ashamed about this because my best friends have always been the people with the least friends, not the most.
At that lunch table, I was really engrossed in a conversation about social media with someone about how to gain followers. I talked about the importance of providing value with your tweets...I try to tweet only when I think I have something interesting or relevant to say. I talked about following the right people who retweet and engage with your conversations and even about making sure your avatars look like a real person to appear authentic. In the meantime, in my peripheral vision, I noticed everyone else in the table had pulled their phone out suddenly.
So I had to stop to find out what was happening. Another tech bubble? Something newer than Periscope? Nope...they were just busy friending each other. What a concept! Here I was talking about how to get followers and I forgot about the importance of making friends. Not just any friends, but the kind that you can relate to. The type of people that I literally friended when I was growing up...the ones just like me.
There's nothing wrong with getting people to follow you, especially when you need to be able to engage with people to help them, which I need to do for my job. But the amount of followers shouldn't be that important. I'd rather connect with someone like my old friends. People who can really enrich my life because of who they are and not how many followers they have.
It's really important we start focusing on making the right type of social connection. One that's centered on the right kind of people. The type of people you can start a conversation with...because it's great to be more than liked, friended or plussed. It's better to meet people you can relate to and talk to about the things your parents don't get (in my case...the internet), but that you love. Then it won't matter how many followers you have. A friend you can geek out with, is worth a billion followers. If you're from planet awesome, I want to meet you.