We've had a few healthy dumpings of snow in the past week. I don't mind winter, it's just that I'd rather the snowflakes that show up for a visit not park themselves in my driveway. But they do. And there I am, out moving it all around like the control freak I am. It's shovel-time.
For those of you who do not get to shovel snow, it's a wonderful experience. You dress up in multiple layers of clothing that guarantee both limited movement and slow strangulation and put on huge boots that only allow you to move six inches at a step. Then you exit a perfectly good house and go out into weather suitable only for flash-freeze food storage and pick up a shovel. As muscles that haven't worked since the last snowstorm scream at you, you begin shoveling at the door and work towards the street so if you get lost, fall or suddenly remember all the nice things about your warm bed; you have a clear path back home. Once you get going, shoveling becomes second nature and amid the shrieks of neighbors doing the same thing you're doing; you are free to think about other stuff.
So I began shoveling yesterday and as I uncovered my door mat (which was gasping for air), it occurred to me just how much I've welcomed in folks by way of social media over the past year – way more than through my front door. I've met many nice people online, regularly converse with some and have had amiable ongoing relations (without the danger of catching anything communicable) with folks (for example) from India, South Africa, Australia, Denmark, England, Columbia, Singapore and several scattered about the States – all online.
There are a few benefits to meeting with folks on the World Wide Web:
1) You do not have to go through invasive airport body searches
2) Bad breath and poor choice of fragrance is not going to enter the conversation (unless you bring the subject up)
3) There is no danger of getting stuck in a hotel elevator with someone with claustrophobia and a voice that can strip the finish off of furniture
4) Having to listen to cab drivers yell into their cell phone in a foreign language the whole trip to the meeting is a thing of the past
5) Your client's facial twitch* never has to divert your attention again, and
6) Mismatched socks, bad hair days, zippers at half-mast and wardrobe malfunctions are inconsequential*.
*Skype conference calls exempted.
According to Internet World Stats, out of an estimated 7.18 billion people in the world at the moment roughly 2.06 billion are connected to the internet. That's a 566.4% increase from the 361 million souls who were connected in the year 2000. Over 66% of that 2.06 billion people (that would be roughly 1.4 billion) participate in social media. So much for me thinking myself special.
The broader story, of course, is about how the tools we use to communicate have changed over just a generation. Growing up, we had a telephone on the wall of our kitchen (granted, with a long cord). That, and snail mail was it. The way we talk now would have been totally unimaginable back then. You can celebrate New Years Eve in Times Square via webcam, share a cheer with a friend on a houseboat in San Francisco via Facebook, exchange blown kisses with someone nice in a pub in England via Skype, and check in with a whole group of possibly tipsy, like-minded professional friends on LinkedIn. Then, just to be jaunty, you can tweet the Canadian Commander of the International Space Station (
Social media makes distances between people disappear, and thank heaven for that; because we get to talk.
Happy New Year to all. And thanks for tuning in to Rand's Place and making my 2012 a very special year.