CHARLOTTE, NC. February 2014, by Chris Jones
As the South dusts off from our latest brush with snowmegeddon, I’ve been reflecting on what the unplanned down time made possible. If you’re like me, your Facebook usage shot up several hundred percent last week.
Trapped indoors, there wasn’t much else to be doing.
But rather than finding myself wasting time, the fate so many fear with social media, I found I was learning lots of things from (and about!) my friends, rekindling relationships that had long been important to me. But here’s the kicker: those relationships never really stopped being important. They were just crowded out by other, newer relationships. Distance and changes in lifestyle were contributing factors of course. We age. We have kids. They grow up. Sometimes we grow up a little too. But the depth of our long-term friendships is always there, under the snowcover of our hectic day-to-day. It took me a little cabin fever and a browser to realize that.
Social networks are new and mysterious things for most people. But they can be great places to connect and reconnect. Here are some things I’ve learned about connecting on places like Facebook and Twitter and blogs, much of it reinforced last week:
- Making connections (old & new) can take just minutes a day
- Let people know you are there, listening .. and interested; “likes” and comments on posts are good ways to start
- Respect other people’s time and space; be gracious if they offer to share it 1:1 with you
- If you’ve made a connection and there’s more to discuss, Facebook Messenger seems less invasive to me than texting because it doesn’t imply/require an immediate response, but it’s more immediate and personal than email or DM’s
- If you’ve agreed to try connecting 1:1 live with an old friend or a potential new colleague (via phone? skype?) choose a bitesize window .. a “time box” .. that accommodates their needs, even if it’s just 10-15 minutes to compare notes
- Have a plan. Why are you connecting? What happens next?
- Keep it light. Always schedule a fallback time, and don’t get discouraged on reschedules or cancels
- Most people .. including my own friends, extended family, and colleagues .. are spread unevenly across social platforms; knowing how/when to find them is quite an art; it calls for being flexible and patient
If you network, much of this is second nature. Doing it online can complicate the situation greatly, if you let it. Or it can be a fascinating place of discovery, a place you go to learn.
In Charlotte, the white stuff is mostly gone. Melted snow was coursing through downspouts in no time, signaling a rapid return to normal ..
Back to work. Back to school. Back to never enough time for what’s important.
Our past relationships are still out there. Many new ones await. They can be as deep and as valuable and as important as ever. And to me, renewed connections with old friends via social is a much more powerful force than we stop to realize. A few minutes to share a smile with a friend is such a small reinvestment on the years of friendship, support and insight we’ve gained from them in the balance. Relationships require some investment, after all.
Making time is making a space for possibilities.
A gift .. hidden in the snow. Who knew?