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Why I Am Social Media Promiscuous

Why I Am Social Media Promiscuous



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Published by GoodMenProject
An excerpt of story about an ongoing love affair with social media.
An excerpt of story about an ongoing love affair with social media.

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Published by: GoodMenProject on Nov 30, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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The Good Men Project Magazine
by Lisa Hickey
December 2008 I walked into a Starbucks. “Are you Erik?” I asked a guy who wasscanning the room looking for someone. “No, sorry.” We laughed awkwardly. I sat at a table and waited formy chai tea to cool down. Finally, Erik walked in, recognizing me right away. “It’s been a while,” he said.Erik Proulx and I had worked together—for a week—about 10 years earlier. We hadn’t talked since. ButErik had just been laid o from his job at a large adversing conglomerate and needed to network. “I don’tknow why I called you,” he said, frankly. “I’m just trying to connect.”Erik had started a blog called Please Feed the Animals to help laid-o ad people like himself. At the me, Ihad never read a blog.I was, however, excited about the potenal for Facebook and Twier as networking tools. I had 300“friends” on Facebook, an amazing number, I thought. My daughter Shannon laughed at my eorts. “Howmany ‘friends’ do you have today, Mom?” she would say, using her favorite hand gesture, the air quote.Admiedly, I was “friending” people for the wrong reasons. Was it an ego thing, something I was do-ing to make me feel beer about myself? Check. Was I compevely trying to rack up more friends thaneveryone I knew? Check. Was I sending friend requests to people I thought were funny, smart, clever, andpopular in the hope that they would think I was funny, smart, clever, and popular? Check, check, check,and check.More than once I was told, “Sorry, I save my Facebook connecons for my ‘real‘ friends.” Ouch. (I soon rec-ognized that if someone already had 400 friends or more, they weren’t so worried about “real” friends.) ***At the coeeshop, Erik had a proposion for me. “I’m having an online chat for out-of-work ad people,” hesaid. “Could you join and talk about your experience on Facebook and LinkedIn?”I stared down at my tea and tried not to groan. The last thing I wanted to do was brand myself an “out-of-work ad person.” What would my Facebook friends think?Erik wasn’t even a friend, not in the way I had previously thought of friends. I didn’t remember if he hadone kid or two, or if he lived on the North Shore or the South Shore. Heck, I hadn’t even recognized him.But Erik was trying to help others, and he needed help himself. I could see how what I had learned mightbe especially helpful to out-of-work ad people, so I agreed. I logged on to his chat the next day.It was a bit of a dud. I was excited about where I saw social media going, but the other parcipants wereless than enthralled with my contribuon. “The last thing I need to do is join another social network,” onewrote. Then, Sally Hogshead typed four words that changed my life: “Have you tried Twier?”
Sally, someone I knew from afar as a speaker, author, and branding expert, explained. “You can followinuenal people, see what they are talking about, and join in the conversaon.”Five months later, I was standing in front of a crowd of 70 people, where I had been asked to speak aboutsocial media. In just a few months, I’d been branded as a “social media expert.” I was careful never to callmyself that, but I didn’t have to. All I had to do, it turned out, was get 13,000 followers on Twier andtalk about social media. A lotMalcolm Gladwell taught me the value of “weak es.” In his book The Tip-ping Point, Gladwell cited a study showing that most people got jobs not through friends, and not throughtradional means like headhunters and ads, but through acquaintances—people they knew but saw rarelyor occasionally.According to Gladwell, 56 percent of jobs are acquired through these “weak es,” while only 18 percentare found through ads and headhunters, and just 9 percent are found through good friends.This is an aconable piece of informaon, the kind I like best. Aer reading Gladwell’s book, I spent 56percent of my me working on my weak es.***I had been socially awkward for most of my life. I’d show up in social situaons and not be able to re-member if the person I was talking to was married or divorced, had one kid or three, was a Republican orDemocrat. Acquaintances would ask me quesons and I couldn’t think of what to say in return.Half of me was worried I’d let slip something stupid about my life, and the other half was scared that Iwould totally screw up what I should have known about their lives. Nearly every conversaon lled mewith anxiety. When I could, I’d say as lile as possible and leave the room. I rarely spoke on the phone.Work was a safe haven: the conversaons were safe, scripted, and professional. I worked a lot.In the summer of 2008, right before I made the decision to get on Facebook, I read an arcle in The NewYork Times by Clive Thompson called “Brave New World of Digital Inmacy.” Clive wrote about somethingsocial sciensts call “ambient awareness”:
Each lile update—each individual bit of social informaon—is insignicant on its own, even supremely mundane. But taken together, over me, the lile snippets coalesce into a surprisingly sophiscated por-trait of your friends’ and family members’ lives, like thousands of dots making a poinllist painng. Thiswas never before possible, because in the real world, no friend would bother to call you up and detail thesandwiches she was eang. The ambient informaon becomes like “a type of ESP,” an invisible dimension oang over everyday life.
Ambient awareness not only made perfect sense to me, it was what I’d been missing my enre life. Myfear of interacon and social situaons meant I didn’t interact with people. I didn’t know how. A form of ESP—some way of knowing enough about people’s lives to be able to have a comfortable conversaon—was exactly what I needed.relaonship was “complicated.” And not only could I recognize people, I could recognize their kids.The running joke about Twier was, “Who wants to know which breakfast cereal you’re eang?” Theanswer? I do. When in doubt, I could have a conversaon about Corn Flakes.

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"ambient awareness" Interesting . . .
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