Monday, August 25, 2008

Twitter and Online Community

This morning my friend Connie Crosby tripped and sprained her ankle. Connie, a former law librarian and now independent social media consultant, mentioned it on Twitter. Within minutes, half a dozen friends responded with sympathy ("owie! owie! sorry to hear this. hope you recover quickly") and advice ("perhaps selfmedication is in order! wine or beer before noon is allowed under these circumstances.") I first met Connie online, through her blog, and developed a friendship with her through her frequent guest appearances on the Check This Out! Podcast before we first met in person at a Podcasters Meetup in Toronto over three years ago.

A little later this morning, I exchanged a series of chat messages with another law librarian friend who has accepted a new job and wanted me to suggest some names of librarians to recommend as his replacement. This was yet another law librarian friend I first met online (first through his blog, then through Twitter) whom I might not otherwise have encountered, but who has become a good friend (and part of my Fantasy Law Library team.)

I've just come back from lunch with my partner Kristina Lively, who is also webmaster for University at Buffalo Law School. Kristina and I first met in Second Life, and after a few months of chatting for hours online--and falling in love--we met in real life at her then home in Washington DC. A few months later Kristina moved to Buffalo, where we share our life and work with our colleagues and friends. We spent part of our lazy Saturday afternoon together planning the next Buffalo Tweetup, an almost-monthly opportunity for folks in the Buffalo area who happen to use Twitter and other social media to get together for drinks and conversation.

Two weeks ago Kristina and I spent the weekend at the Niagara on the Lake Podcasting and Social Media Meetup with our old friends Connie Crosby, Keith Burtis, Mark Blevis, Wayne MacPhail, and new friends John Meadows, Bill Deys, Sean McGaughey, and others--all people we first met online.

In just over three weeks Kristina and I will be going to Podcamp Montreal, where (at last count) 267 social media users from all over Canada (and a handful of Americans), all of whom know each other through podcasts, blogs, and Twitter, will be getting together to share ideas and simply to have fun.

Can someone explain to me how all of this constitutes an "imagined community," and how it lacks "the subtleties of types of connection possible in the meat world"?

(Cross-posted at Buffalo Wings and Toasted Ravioli.)


Connie Crosby said...

Indeed, I am very connected to a lot of the people I meet online. I do business with some, others I talk to on a personal basis. I have never met Mitch Canter of http://www.studionashvegas , for example, in person, and yet through talking on Twitter and by video in ooVoo, we have helped each other out in our fledgling businesses and I hired him to build my company website. Eden Spodek and I became good friends through Twitter and other online tools, and now are putting a podcast together.

Online spaces allow us to meet people who we otherwise might not have met, and find people of similar interests. It is a newer way of building community, perhaps, but can still be just as strong a community as in person. Sometimes even stronger.


Betsy McKenzie said...

I'm just starting to tweet. I don't feel concerned about security issues, and I do like hearing what folks I know are thinking about. For instance, I just wondered aloud who would like to be nominated for board or leadership of SALLD. Tweeter doesn't lend itself to deep discussions, but it lets you know who is thinking things that you'd like to have a deep discussion about. Is that too confusing?