Lean In: To A Small World

One of the best parts of social media -- one of the most important -- is when social becomes actually that. In real life, people having conversations, piecing together the world.

A few weeks ago I was reminded of how small this world, linked by ping backs and status updates, can be. 

It started when I posted something to Facebook about Sheryl Sandberg's "Lean In." Specifically, I wrote that I wanted to start a discussion group, to which a number of friends -- some I know in real life, some strictly through the computer -- responded. Among the responders was David Griner.

David and I have been in similar orbits for a long time. We both have journalism backgrounds and are digital and social media folks. We're both based in Birmingham and engaged in work that takes us around the country -- he in advertising, me in magazines. We're both writers (check out his excellent piece "Why Aren't Video Game Actors Treated Like Stars?")

I've always admired David and his work, but we never had a real conversation.

It was only when he commented on a Facebook thread I started about Sheryl Sandberg's "Lean In" that we decided to meet.

***

We met for lunch, and were driving down Columbiana Road when David showed me a photo. It was me, on a horse, in 1998. Me on a horse. From 15 years ago. What?

Turns out that summer we were both interns at The Arizona Republic. We didn't spend much time together because we worked in different offices, except for this trip and a handful of lectures. 

So how would we have put it all together? We didn't for many years. Until a few weeks ago. When relaying the story to one person, I heard, "That shows social media's shortcomings."

Maybe.

Or maybe not. We decided to meet (after exchanging Facebook messages). Then David looked at my LinkedIn profile, where he picked up on the internship. Yes, it took some old fashioned sleuthing for him to identify that ball cap, acid-wearing jeans girl in the photo (hey, it was the 90s). But social helped piece things together. Pretty cool. 

We had a great time getting to know one another after all those years. Journalism, digital, social. 

What's the takeaway? Well, obviously, always be nice to people you meet every step along the way. Because you just should. 

  • But you also might be sitting next to them in 15 years in a setting you can't even imagine at the time. 
  • Be open to surprises. That morning I was coming from giving a talk, and a little tired. I had no idea of the joy of making this connection. 
  • The most important part of social media is the "social" part. 

Oh, and my new/old friend David and I are going to host a "Lean In" discussion group -- soon. Let me know if you're interested in attending. You don't even have to wear acid washed jeans.