Offline conversations about online conversations

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Sometimes I want to talk with people in person about how we talk with people on the Internet. I know I can get very “meta”– I mean, look at my website, where I sometimes blog about blogging—but I think it’s very important that we take some time to talk about how we’re talking. When I say “blogging” and “talking” I’m talking about any kind of media that you share with people on the Internet. Whatever you put out there, you are in effect “talking” to people. When you write comments, fave or “Like” something, rate something, etc., you’re talking to people. You produce and consume enough of these social media (photos, videos, stories, updates, links, comments, etc.), and you’re talking with people. But you’re not talking with them in real life, and you’re not even talking with them in real time. The communication is abstracted and asynchronous.

This evening, I went out with my husband Andy to a local brewery for something called #evfn, or East Valley Friday Night. As the description says, “Some folks calls it a tweetup. I calls it an #evfn. Remember the agenda: no agenda. Have fun. Meet people. Party on!” I’ve been to several of these, well, I calls ’em Tweetups, and sometimes they can get pretty meta about social media. How do we share updates? Photos? Videos? Personal stuff? Work stuff? What kinds of relationships are made, bettered, or broken online? How do we bring those online relationships offline and vice versa? I love talking about that kind of stuff. In fact, no matter what I’m doing at the moment, I have an intense need to talk about it with others who are doing the same thing and are willing to talk it all out.

“Remember the agenda: no agenda.” I can accept that. I know that some of these people work in social media and Internet industries, so they might be tired of talking about their work. I understand that. People need loosely structured milieux where they can just relax, mingle, and–in the words of Auntie Mame–“Circulate, Patrick, circulate.” And sometimes, sometimes, to “circulate” is just what I want to do. But other times I want a rap group– a structured, moderated discussion. That’s what I wanted tonight.

I did get a bit of what I wanted. When I first got there, we sat around a table and talked about various things including employment, health care, spousal benefits, and how unfair it is that I have to pay a “Domestic Partnership Offset Tax” to keep Andy on my health care plan. We all talked for a while at that one table, and somehow the conversation got around to social media, though I don’t remember whether I steered it in that direction or not. People talked a bit about whether they feed their updates to Facebook from Twitter, whether they share personal updates on Facebook or keep it acceptable for business associates, whether to have a separate Twitter account for protected tweets, etc.

Then I brought up my dilemma about the photo I asked the waiter to take of us (shown above). I said, “Nowadays I could post every bit of media I create to so many channels that I sit there with something for a few minutes thinking, ‘should I post it to my Facebook personal profile, my Facebook Page, Flickr, Twitpic…??'” One person gave an answer in the form of, “This is what you do…” and I felt like it was a move to lay the question to rest. Then more people showed up and the conversation got dropped. I tried to pick it up again and the person who had answered before gave me a card and wrote on it “Read [with three underlines] convinceandconvert.com Jay Baer.” That was the end of the conversation. I felt shut down. I really can’t complain, though. I was probably “holding them hostage” on a topic they no longer wanted to talk about. I was probably the one who was out of order, trying to create an agenda when there was no agenda.

I get that people want the freedom to talk about whatever they want to talk about with whoever they want to talk about it with. I have no problem with it. What I do have a problem with is that I read and read and read but I don’t get a chance talk and talk and talk.

I need a forum for discussion– a structured, moderated, real life, real time conversation about social media. I need to listen to people’s personal experiences with social media and I need to talk about mine. I don’t want the conversation to be about how to “drive traffic” and “target markets” and “strengthen your brand.” I just want to sit around with people who create and share a lot of stuff on the Internet not because they want to make money but just because they want to share. The question for me is: how do we share things with other people. I don’t think that reading another article or attending a social media lecture or listening to a panel discussion is going to satisfy me. I want a rap group with an agenda. Anybody know of one?

[P.S. I spent two hours working on this post last night until my husband literally whined (it’s our thing, we mimic our dogs) for me to come to bed at 11. I thought I clicked “Publish” but I actually clicked “Save Draft” which is just as well because I lay in bed worried about what I had written and whether it would hurt anyone’s feelings or hurt my standing with the group. I just kept replaying the post over and over in my head while Adam Young’s voice singing Alaska played over and over in my head. Tormented, I am. This morning, I woke up early and could not get back to sleep. Again with the blog post and song tormenting me. So I got up to look at this blog post and realized I hadn’t published it. Great! Gives me more time to make it right. Now I’m sitting here on the sofa with my laptop over my legs and our dog Buxley swatting my arm with his paw to get my attention. And now it’s an hour-and-a-half later and I think I might just be ready to publish this thing whether it’s perfect or not and whether or not it ruffles any feathers.]

As I was saying, anybody know of a real life, real time rap group about social media? What ways do you find to have meaningful and satisfying conversations with people who are doing what you are doing and learning to do it well? Can you give me an example of how one of these conversations changed you and made your life easier?

Author: Daniel Greene

I facilitate communication between Deaf and hearing people, and I teach people American Sign Language (ASL) and interpreting. Apart from doing the work I love, my greatest joys are family & friends, entertainment, food, photography, and travel.

4 thoughts on “Offline conversations about online conversations”

  1. Evo, I do like going to #evfn and I'm glad you always welcome me back even when I use my experience there as a case study in my explorations of such social functions. Everyone has made me feel welcome, and it's only in experiencing what they group is intended for that I realize I need something else. Not necessarily something instead, but something in addition. Thank you so much for suggesting those groups that might give me what I'm looking for in addition to #evfn!🙂

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  2. First, I hope you continue to come to #evfn. I for one really enjoy the conversations we have there, though they do tend to be brief. So finding another venue where we could talk more would be a Good Thing.Second, I highly recommend Social Media Club. SMC meets the 2nd Thursday of every month at the Jobing.com corporate offices near Highland on 22nd Street. But not in September, as it's conflicting with SMAZ, a local social media for business conference. Look up Social Media Club Phoenix for details. It's a VERY structured and agenda-ed meeting that I think you will enjoy.Third, there are a host of other events around the valley. You're aware of some of the photography-based ones I know. Loads more that delve into other aspects, and many of them are social media based. Let me know if you want me to point you in any particular direction. I typically don't attend those, as my dance card is pretty full. But the opportunities in this town are legion!See you at the next #evfn, if not before!

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  3. Hi Daniel,I was the "person" who responded to your question about how to manage multiple accounts with various audiences. I gave you my suggestions — not to shut you down, but simply to share my perspective that how people use various tools depends on who they're targeting with each tool. I know others contributed to that conversation as well.As more people arrived (and the group was moved to a larger table and reshuffled) the conversation shifted as well. As we moved I handed you the card with Jason's blog on it as I thought it might be a good resource to get some other perspectives on the effective use of Facebook and Twitter (and not only Jay's opinion — he's got lots of bright social media folks who regularly comment on his posts and share their expertise). It definitely wasn't an effort to "shut you down" and I'm sorry you felt that was my intention.#evfn is an opportunity for us to visit with friends, meet new folks we haven't met before, laugh and share a few beers — it's definitely not the venue for an involved, focused, mediated discussion of the kind you were maybe looking for. Especially since it's held in a BAR, and everybody's all spread out and trying to mix and mingle. Many of us talk all week about the effective use of marketing tools and don't want to get into a long discussion about it at this event (in particular).For a more concentrated discussion of social media topics I'd consider looking at the Social Media Club of AZ (SocialMediaAZ.org), AZIMA (joinAZIMA.org) or use Twitter to find SM events specifically designed around in-depth discussion of these topics.I enjoyed talking with you and Andy last night and hope to see you at #evfn again in the future.

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