Where is the "Real Conversation"?

by francine Hardaway on December 28, 2007

Chris Heuer started the Social Media Club, and now he has started The Conversation Group. He spends a lot of time thinking about where the "real" conversation is taking place. I’ve been asking myself the same thing. My conversations are mainly on Twitter and Facebook.

That is, they are now. They have been all over the place on the Internet over the past twelve years, from freenets, to BBS, to AOL, to email, to blogs, to microsites. I spend many hours online–so many that my family thinks the online world has replaced real life for me.  Last night we opened our Christmas gifts, and after about two hours, I drifted back to the computer to see what was happening on Twitter.

Chris makes the point that every time the locus of conversation changes (or at least I think he is making that point, but maybe I am) we leave friends behind. He is wondering what happens to those relationships.

Well, I can only speak for myself.  Twice a week I walk my dogs with someone I have known for 34 years.  Right before Christmas I met my former running group (we are all too crippled from many years of running to run anymore but we walk) for a gift exchange.  That same week, I convened a group for dinner that I used to dine with when I gave birth to my first child. I also had dinner with my college roommate, and I’m planning to go to my  high school reunion in June.

How do I stay in touch with these people? Through a tool most social media types don’t think of as social media — Yahoo Groups. About ten or twelve years ago, I started a small email list on a tool called Microsoft bCentral. It was considered a small business marketing tool.  At the time, I was in the PR business, and I wanted to show everyone how important technology was going to become in their lives. Because my friends were also interested, I put them on the list.

About seven years ago, when Yahoo bought eGroups, I moved the list to YahooGroups.  Shortly after, Blogger came along, and I started a blog.  I cut and pasted the blog entries into the Yahoo Group emails, and sent them out. There was no RSS yet (or I didn’t know about it).

The blog continues, although I’ve moved it to Typepad. I keep my dog’s blog on Blogger :-) The Yahoo Group continues.  The group has nearly 2000 people in it, and the blog has a similar number of readers — but they are completely different people. If you look at my LinkedIn profile, or Plaxo, there is very little overlap. Different people gravitate to different tools.

But the conversation continues. My takeaway: the technology is a tool.  The conversation comes from you, and your desire to communicate.  Utter, Twitter, Dopplr, Flickr,–you will find a way to talk to the people you love.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

mysterymika101 December 28, 2007 at 10:10 am

We can choose our friends and internet groups people want a break from the family that they are born into… Online conversation is based on ideas- artists aren’t alone on the journey to self expression. All of the new networking tools aid the individual to communicate and grow. It is a beautiful thing that I am happy to part of.

Connie Reece December 28, 2007 at 10:37 am

As usual, Francine, you have hit the proverbial nail on the head. My mantra: “It’s not about the technology, it’s about the people.”

Connie Reece December 28, 2007 at 10:38 am

As usual, Francine, you have hit the proverbial nail on the head. My mantra: “It’s not about the technology, it’s about the people.”

francine hardaway December 28, 2007 at 4:53 pm

Mysterymika101, you are right. Some people’s families are toxic, but even if your family is wonderful it is limited. These tools do help everyone to grow.

Chris Heuer December 30, 2007 at 4:36 pm

Thank you for this thoughtful addition to the topic – yes that is generally what I was referencing, but I was also referencing the fact that when we choose to have our conversation in one ‘social network’ over another we are limiting who is involved in it, so our technology choices determines our conversational circles. Now that we are stretched in so many different places where we converse with others, it is making it so much more difficult to engage with everyone.

In short, we are stretching our attention to the limit… and for what purpose? Surely some of those 2,000 folks are now blogging or perhaps even on Twitter, but most are still having their conversations on their dog walks, at the church social or even on old fashioned email lists!

We choose where we want to talk with people, so this is perfectly acceptable, I am just noticing how I am less connected with some people I really care about who are not investing their time using the same technologies I do. One of the decisions I regret about Social Media Club is not choosing a platform like Ning or Facebook earlier as the place where we would all congregate – not wanting to choose for people and embracing the ‘ad-hoc’ ethos – this has created a situation where the ties between groups and members are not as strong as they could have been… it is something we will be rectifying soon as some new leadership comes in to the fold and some old projects finally finish up

francine hardaway December 30, 2007 at 6:27 pm

A Ning network for SMC would be a good idea. I started one in fifteen minutes for my class at Grand Canyon last year, so know for a fact it takes about fifteen minutes to do. Let’s do it! Do you want me to put it up there? Just send me the logo. We can all populate it.

Susan F. Heywood January 4, 2008 at 11:33 pm

The Ning network for SMC sounds great. Do we have one? I would like to join or can also help in setting it up.

I also find interactions less frequent (perhaps less convenient)with friends and family who are not using social media tools. I don’t think that this means that the social media enabled relationships are more important or valid than those we conduct “offline.”

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