I just wish I could see you all more often

Summary

Social media brings people together…but there’s still something missing.

The past couple of months have been a bit rubbish for me emotionally for a number of reasons which I won’t bore you with. That said, January and February have historically been rubbish months for me and 2012 wasn’t going to break that trend. The thoughts in this blogpost are similar to what I posted in I want to bring you all together, but looking at things from a working perspective rather than a social one.

Tumbling through Helen Reynolds‘ post about Twitter being more than talking about breakfast got me thinking – in particular the reference to Peter Kay and the pub.

“It’s like walking into a pub and being able to hear everybody’s conversations without anybody realising you are there. You can choose which ones you listen to and which ones to ignore. If you want, you can join in too.”

One of the reasons why I organise pub lunch gatherings on a monthly basis in London is because I want my Twitter community to be more than just being like walking into a pub, I want it to be IN the pub where I know lots of people and have meaningful relationships with them.

Death by data input

One of the things that I struggled to find during my time in the workplace was a stable group of people with multiple shared interests. In part regularly moving around and regular reorganisations threw stability out of the window. At the same time, it also reminded me of my first fulltime job working as a finance clerk for one of Britain’s big banks. It was a small office of around 20 people, with the work I was tasked with being mind-numbingly dull. (Data inputting for the most part). I can’t imagine such a job existing today – the internet and automation means that firms no longer have to fill in forms & send them off to the bank for them to be manually input.

In that office, I connected with no one. Dare I say it, the people there didn’t seem to particularly enjoy each others’ company. That’s not to say they were bad people, it was simply the nature of the workplace where (as a number of them said) they came into work at 9am, left at 5pm and lived the rest of their lives away from everyone else. Many seemed content with that set up. Work was what they did during the day, it paid the bills and was separate to what they did outside of it. My desire ever since leaving was to find a career that incorporated everything into a wider lifestyle – where I was working with were friends outside of work as well as inside of it. For whatever reason, it never happened.

When working for an organisation – in particular a large one, we don’t have the choice of who we work with. We work with who we are put with. Given that for those in full time work such people spend most of their daylight hours together, it makes sense to at least try and get on. Otherwise getting out of bed on a Monday morning ends up feeling far worse than it needs to be.

Free from large organisations

In lone-ranger social media world, things seem to be a little different. Well…a lot different at the moment. At the moment I choose who I interact with. At the same time, I’m also meeting a lot of really nice people who have been aware of my existence prior to meeting me – and vice-versa. The people who I am meeting and thus far being invited to contribute to at events (or even get commissioned by) are people I already have some sort of ‘virtual’ interaction with. I know a little bit about them, they know a little bit about me. On my side there is a growing library of blogposts that reveals some of the insights and experiences that I have had – and whether they will be useful to whoever wants to get hold of me. This goes beyond the formal brochure or professional website. Blogging (amongst other things) shows that you are human.

The interaction that I’ve had through this blog and through Puffles has been one of the most amazing experiences of my life. No – really. When I launched Puffles onto Twitter I never saw the whole thing going beyond having maybe a few hundred “real” followers at best. Puffles is now hovering around the 3,000 mark – bearing in mind that I cull spambots several times a day. I get to interact with people who I regularly see on television or who have a high political or professional profile as well as interacting with those some may describe as “ordinary” but whose insights are strikingly profound. (Hence why I like to go with the idea that there’s no such thing as an ordinary person.)

The lack of face-to-face conversation

The problem? It’s all virtual. Social media may bring us together virtually but it doesn’t bring all of the people I want to be bouncing ideas off, together physically (i.e. in the same building) on a regular basis. I might be having a conversation with people in my mind, but I’m not having a conversation with my voice – my vocal chords remain silent. Wouldn’t it be great to have all these lovely people within the same physical area? Although London is close by, getting there is not cheap – and at the moment I cannot afford to go there to the events I’d like to attend as regularly as I would like. At the moment it’s once a month when really I want and need it to be once a week.

In a sense this is all part of the culture shock of moving from an environment where I’m surrounded by lots of people (& am interacting with them) to one where I’m not. You could say it’s a challenge for any freelancer or sole worker anywhere. Some people are comfortable working alone, others are not. I like to think myself as being a social creature rather than one who is happy hidden away in a room, cubicle or somewhere far away from people. Hence why one of the arguments I’ve been having in my head is to what extent I’m cut out for going it alone. Wouldn’t it be far easier to apply for jobs instead? After all, I was applying for jobs throughout the autumn. It was only when potential clients started asking me (via Puffles) if I could deliver social media training that the idea of doing something like that even entered my mind. This meant getting my skates on across a number of different areas.

Next steps

It sort of reminds me of the process I saw Fleet Street Fox go through when she realised that she had developed a strong identity. (I don’t like to use the term “brand” because of connotations with sticking hot pieces of metal onto farm animals). I’m still feeling my way around what I want to do and where I want to go…sort of in this situation where there are a number of opportunities and barriers around, but at present feel that I have neither the full set of skills nor the confidence to take advantage of the former and overcome the latter.

For the things that I’ve viewed as essential, I’ve commissioned professionals with the skills to do things for me. I’ve just signed off a new logo which, when the final version arrives you’ll have first sight of. I’ve got the skeleton of my professional website up and running content-wise – I’m now just waiting for a WordPress theme (that’s consistent with the logo) to arrive.

If everything works out, hopefully I’ll be able to start seeing more of you more regularly…even if I can’t see all of you everyday.

5 thoughts on “I just wish I could see you all more often

  1. People are always saying to me that online social networking is no substitute for face-to-face interaction, and I agree with them. But, for me, what Twitter has done is to put me in touch with hundreds of people who do similar work and have similar attitudes to life, and then I’ve been able to meet very many of them face-to-face, and have continued interactions with them.

    Have you thought about organising something like a Tweetup in your local area, which might be a start towards making those new connections.

  2. Just to respond to a small part of this (and hopefully not a substantial tangent): there’s apparently a scheme to reduce travel costs for jobseekers.

    Jobseekers (T&C) are supposed to be eligible to New Deal National Rail cards (information on these is very limited).

    There is a separate scheme for travel within London for jobseekers (T&C: also includes those who are outside the area but need to travel in it): Jobcentre Plus Travel Discount Card. Apparently, almost no one who works in a Job Centre has heard of these cards but they do exist and can help some people who wish to volunteer for charities that don’t offer sufficient travel expenses to cover typical costs; need to travel for interviews etc.

    Best wishes for the new site and other interesting developments.

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