It’s a great fortune to learn the art of genuinely connecting with people. Sometimes people remark that meeting me provides real connectivity; that they feel listened to, and a genuine sense of comradery. I think about this brick and mortar connectivity as it applies to online communities and see many implications, including a possible Twitter Bubble that may burst later this year.
First let’s discuss connecting (image: Talking by pedrosimoes7). There is a big difference between having a conversation — communicating, if you would — and connecting with people. It requires looking someone right in their eyes, and actively listening to them. We consciously do things to let people know we are listening, such as follow-up with questions, repeat back something they’ve said and not necessarily verbatim, nod, if it’s a lighter conversation smile, and try to present open body language (avoiding crossing arms, etc.).
Why is this so important? Everyone wants to feel important, and when they communicate with you, they are trying to achieve more than just say something or deliver a message. They want be heard, they want to know that you genuinely care.
Spiritually speaking, I enjoy doing this. As Thich Nan Hanh said in his book, “True Love,” demonstrating full presence for someone else in any relationship is the greatest gift you can offer.
Make no doubt about it, this kind of presence is hard. I fail many times. When I have bad ADD or I am tired, I can easily get distracted. Of course, like everyone else, my own self think can become a barrier to being an active person to connect with… And then there are gadgets. Increasingly, I turn off my cell phone or close my laptop to commit my attention to somebody. And quite frankly, I am only capable of a few conversations like this during any given day.
Yet the reward of build strong interpersonal relationships and giving someone the presence we all crave makes this worthwhile. So it’s important to focus on these everyday.
Applied to Online and Twitter
Online conversations can only take you so far. Frank Gruber once said to Toby Bloomberg and I that the best forms of social media involve some brick and mortar component. He believes that people need the physical connectivity. I totally agree, and think the best social media often involves some sort of a meet-up, gathering or physical object associated with the effort as a call to action.
This kind of connectivity is a derivative of the above, putting people together face-to-face or holding something. They see responses, can shake your hand, or touch that product.
In fact, this is one of the reasons why I’m a bit disappointed to miss Thursday’s Twestival event in DC (I will be on a plane). The event combines two of my favorite things; green social cause (benefiting water) and my primary social network, Twitter. The opportunity to do a combined brick and mortar event seemed ideal for connectivity to me.
Twitter appeals to me because the conversation — in the form of @s, DMs and sometimes hashtags — can provide incredible connectivity. But Twitter isn’t what it used to be. As Ike Pigott, noted last week on Media Bullseye, Twitter has turned into a trophy prize hunt for the most followers.
This strategy – whether it’s to become a successful “social media expert” or simply for personal influence – often involves following tons of people, and getting them to follow you back. Simply drop those who do not comply. Or if you are genuinely followed by many for whatever reason, the mistaken belief that you need to return follow everyone who follows you. Tools like search.Twitter.com and Tweetdeck make it easy to see conversations initiated by unfollowed readers and respond.
As a result we are seeing mega personalities evolve who carefully cultivate their personal brand or marketing image on Twitter. The ensuing lack of authenticity and canned BS that emit from such Twitter streams kills connectivity. And that makes me think there’s a bubble of false Twitter fame occurring. Eventually, all bubbles burst.
I’ve seen this mega-personality syndrome happen to friends. Quite frankly, I’ve stopped following them because I feel no connection with them on Twitter. Shaquille O’Neal is a novelty and as a true fan, I enjoy the bizarre tweets that emerge. Rare is the internet famous or marketing guru who is such a compelling public figure. I am sure others feel the same way. It screams bubble to me.