Social media changes real-life conversations

Memnon Anon sent me a link to Matt Zimmerman’s post “Social media has made me boring“, which got me thinking because I have almost the complete opposite experience.

My parents’ Facebook updates and forum posts provide fodder for weekly chats and let me keep up to date across timezones. I feel much more in touch with my friends who use social media, and we have plenty of things to talk about because I get a better picture of their interests. When we talk, we can jump past the “What did you do?” to “How did you feel about that?” I can find out when they’re having a bad day, what they care about, what they enjoy. And this works for people in the same city, too. Blogs, tweets, and other updates give me deeper insights into people than I could find out in five minutes or even an hour.

Social media lets us take conversational shortcuts. I might start telling a story that I’ve told on my blog, and the person I’m talking to says, “yeah, I’ve read that”–so then I skip past the introduction and go to the parts I hadn’t gotten around to writing down, or that I’m still figuring out. Sometimes I might tell a story in response to a question a friend asks, and then realize that was worth blogging about. There are always too many stories to write down, and conversation and interaction brings out even more.

I still organize get-togethers over tea, dinner, or Skype because I like seeing the interaction between my friends. But social media is what lets me develop good relationships with people I might not otherwise be able to keep in touch with as often, and I really like it.

So here’s what I think the trick is:

Get over that hitch. You know how you might feel disappointed/interrupted when someone says, “I’ve read that on your blog”? Practice your happy-do until your first reaction is “Awww, thanks for reading!” and then go on with asking people what they thought, or jumping to the part you really wanted to talk about. Make your conversations less about “What did you do this summer?” and more about “What did you like about it? What did you learn? How did that change you?” and other deeper questions. Even if you’ve already posted a long, thoughtful reflection on your blog, you’ll learn even more through the conversation, and through connecting it with other people’s experiences.

If you blog, there are a number of mental mind-shifts that are useful. That’s one of them. Another one is to get used to the idea that people may know more about you than you know about them, which is really weird at the beginning. People feel uncomfortable when other people have the edge in terms of knowledge. But you can flip that around, be flattered that someone’s taken the time to learn about you and keep up to date with you, and then use the conversation time to get to know about them.

Social media changes conversations, and I think that’s awesome.

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  • This is the best thing about social media. It makes everything really easy to keep in touch and keep up to date with your family and friend. And it does make the conversation more interesting than asking “how was your summer?” I think facebook does better on this area of social media.

  • Sacha
    great blog, social media changes real-life conversations so much that some of my older male friends have gone and setup Facebook and Twitter accounts, just so they can understand what I am talking about to their wives and girlfriends. I have found it fascinating that in my older friends 28+ that females are definitely quicker adopters of social media
    My theory is they love a chat! about anything, anytime?
    cheers Pete

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  • Great Blog. I attend to agree wholeheartedly with reference to keeping in touch with people who you would normally not have the ‘time’ factor available. Six months ago I signed up to Facebook, within three to four days, I had made contact with 30-40% of high school and primary school friends to whom I have had no contact for 17 years.

    The changes in the lives of those who grew up with, the ‘what is he doing now?’ questions can now be answered even if the person isn’t connected, someone who is will know what the person is doing.

    Social media has and is changing the conversational process in that we no longer have to repeat ourselves…we can simply write…’READ POST 8″ this allows the reader to recap and to catch up where the conversation is continuing……

    Richard R-W

  • Social media helps to make the dimensions of time and distance disappear. For people who aren’t on Twitter or Facebook following feeds, I find that the Post Notification plugin for WordPress serves as a periodic newsletter to friends and colleagues around the world … at least to let them know that I’m still alive.

    I’ve just had evidence that posting my location on Brightkite with status updates to my Facebook account helps people know when I’m in town. (Finland, this week!)

  • I think this is pretty much spot on. Particularly with regards to blogs. I’m not sure, I suppose how well it translates into twitter, and other similar media.

    In a lot of ways what twitter (but not facebook) did was bring back the “IRC” mode of digitally moderated conversations, which is different from the blog/publishing mode of conversation, for a huge number of people this is a new and different way of interacting with the world. For me, it’s oddly familiar, but I had an odd youth. For the most part I think we–as a culture–have some figuring out to do.

  • Hi Sacha,

    I really enjoyed reading this post. I agree that we can eliminate much of the useless chat with social technology. I am a student of Jason Watson’s Enterprise 2.0 unit and I just made a post about lifestreaming. What I found in my research is that people are in favor of such activity but oppose to doing away with their traditional blog. You have clearly done a great job of integrating aspects of your personal life with professional opinions. I would like to hear your thoughts on lifestreaming. Advantages or disadvantages?