Social networking: it’s a subject that fascinates me. For those who don’t get it, it’s just pointless drivel amongst “internet friends.” They lump it in with the mindless banter that dominated the AOL chat rooms of the early- to mid-nineties. For some, maybe that’s an accurate assessment. But for many, it’s so much more than a BBS for BS. The fundamental misconception that skeptics have is that social networking resides strictly within the confines of their computer monitors. But the people who get the most out of it know that it transcends the World Wide Web and becomes a part of our physical lives.
To a certain extent, various social networks can be utilized to conduct business without ever meeting in person. A good example of that happened for me yesterday. On the official RoadTwip trailer (more on them in a minute), the music of Chris Merritt was featured. His Twitter name was displayed at the bottom of the screen as his song “North” played. Intrigued, I went to his profile, then followed the link to his website. From his online store, I ordered the album Pixie and the Bear. Just like that, Chris Merritt had a new fan and customer. The emotion of music can change your whole mood. And I discovered new music that I never would have found if it weren’t for social networking.
Some users are perfectly content to allow their online relationships to remain there. By that measure, maybe some of the critics are somewhat accurate in their claims. But the real beauty of social networking occurs when we break out of the monitor and have face-to-face interaction. Tweetups have become more and more popular. Strangers are coming out of the woodwork to make their online acquaintances real world friends. Toledo’s social media rock star Damian Rintelmann has taken “Toleetups” to new heights by attracting the attention of our local ABC affiliate WTVG. Watching perfect strangers build relationships on the eleven o’clock news hardly seems pointless to me.
But for some, Tweetups are just the beginning. I mentioned the RoadTwip gang a couple paragraphs back. The gang in question is Jolie O’Dell, Kurt Daradics, and Jonathan Dingman. The trio are currently knee-deep in a tour of the Midwest, stopping at cities in a loop around the heartland to meet with social media gurus and everyday people. Stops in Blacksburg, Virginia, Nashville, St. Louis, Omaha, and Chicago all precede tomorrow’s stopover in Toledo. The gang will meet up with Damian Rintelmann before attending an impromptu Toleetup at The Blarney at 8:00 pm. I’ll be playing unofficial host to the weary travelers as they work their way east to Cleveland, Boston, and the Big Apple. I say “unofficial” because nobody ever asked me to do it. I just want to make sure the gang has the best experience possible in my hometown. Why? New paragraph. Hold, please.
Your enjoyment of this blog post is very important to us. Someone will be with you shortly to continue relevant content. Aaaaand… we’re back. My rationale for jumping into the mix is two-fold. One, I want the magic of social networking to work. That whole “breaking out of the monitor” thing. The more people I can gather, the more we can disprove the naysayers. And two, I want Toledo to be a memorable stop on their adventure. We’re probably the smallest city on the trip… ahem… Twip. I want to make sure that when the gang write the recaps of their adventure, our little corner of the country leaves an impression on them. We reach out to the world to feel like we’re part of something bigger. But at the end of the day, we want the world to be a part of us. If you’re not proud of your hometown, move.
So for all of the doubters, critics, and skeptics who have already written social networking off as useless, I would like to invite you out to The Blarney tomorrow night. Videos of the shenanigans will undoubtedly find a home on YouTube and Qik. Pictures of our goofy mugs will grace the pages of multiple Flickr Photostreams. The Twitter hashtags #RoadTwip and #Toleetup will be rolling off of keyboards on Tuesday morning. And when Toledo disappears from the rearview mirror and Jolie checks in on BrightKite heading east, a handful of Toledoans will be happy to defend the merits of social networking. They might even tell you about #myflavorObacon.