One complaint about twitter (and other websites which I have less experience with, e.g. Facebook) is that they provide a sham of real connection: you’re not really friends with all of those people, it’s just a sort of faux intimacy.
This is true, but it’s actually a strength rather than a virtue, and being at a conference really brings that home to me. Sure, it’s possible that there are people that I’ll meet here with whom I’ll feel a mutual immediate strong connection. But what’s a lot more likely is that I’ll run into many more people whom I’ve enjoyed my interactions with, whom I would like to have some contact with in the future, but whom I’m not likely to even start exchanging e-mails with, let alone call or visit them.
And the perfect thing for me to do in that situation is the combination of following them on twitter (as a sort of small-talk chit-chat way of getting to know them) and of subscribing to their blog (to get to know how they think in a more deeper way). Maybe I’ll get bored in a few weeks, in which case no big deal; maybe, though, I’ll find myself looking forward to what they have to say, maybe they’ll reciprocate with me, maybe we’ll find ourselves looking forward to our conversations in those fora.
Certainly there are many people that I follow on twitter whom I would be more than happy to get together with should we be in the same city at some point, but for whom that wasn’t the case when I first became aware of them, and for whom I’m fairly sure that both of those feelings are reciprocated. And I don’t know how I would have figured that out without these media. For that matter, there’s no reason why uncovering a deeper connection should be the end goal: there are also people that I’m perfectly happy to stay in loose contact with via these more tenuous connections, perhaps exchanging the occasional e-mail if there’s something prompting that, but with no further deeper contact. These media are opening up new Levels of Scale in the space of possible connections; that’s a good thing, no?
This post has not been revised since publication.