Virtual Community in the Real Realm

The True Meaning of Community in the Third Millenium:

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NewMedia Cincy: Jennifer Mitchell & Michelle Beckham deep in discussion.

Was on a planning call for the social media networking group:  New Media Cincinnati last night.  The call was on Talkshoe.com and was hosted by group founder Daniel Johnson, Jr.  Participants  connected to the discussion in a variety of ways:

The purpose was to discuss the final Second Saturday meeting of the year and the novel idea of simulcasting sister group New Media Dayton’s meeting with our own.  (NMD was founded by my good friend, Carole Hicks.) Members of both groups were on the call and technical issues as well as format/theme issues were discussed.  As I listened in through my pc speakers (I was multi-tasking), I was struck by the fact that we have created a COMMUNITY in the truest sense of the word.  Most of these people didn’t know each other 2 years ago and many have just met in the last 9 months.  They described what they had learned this year via their involvement with the group and several participants mentioned that their businesses were launched with the help and support of those they met at NMC- businesses that all included a social media component.

It is known that this group brings together a wide variety of participants from every business, technical and creative community in the city.  What might not be known is that a lot of us have met virtually first; established an on-line relationship and then finally moved it into the ‘Real Realm’.  When that face-to-face meeting occurs for the first time, you have the feeling that you are connecting with a long lost friend.  That is the true meaning of AUTHENTICITY.

Here’s a story: I  “met” George Williams initially by following the conversation he was having with Daniel Johnson Jr. on Twitter.  George is a recent transplant from New Orleans and had connected with Dan prior to his move (not sure how that happened, but I’m sure there is a social media story in there somewhere).  I have family in NOLA and started tweeting with George about our commonality.  We moved the conversation over to Facebook, where we could engage in larger than 140 character conversations.  We made plans to meet in person at various meetings (NMC Second Saturday, SummitUp, etc.), but each fell through for one of us.  One night I entered  a Facebook Status Update in which I was lamenting having to stay up to meet my daughter’s 1:00 a.m. class trip bus when I was already very tired.  George saw it, and said he would be happy to keep me awake in discussions and invited me to connect with him on Skype.  We launched into a great talk and I got to see his house via webcam,  as well as see him live and in the flesh.  Overhearing the conversation, you would have thought we were long lost college friends and had known each other for years.  We still have never met in the “Real Realm”, but that is the power of connection and engagement in the world of social media.

Take that story and multiply it dozens of times and you get what I mean by community building.  NMC is a networking group, but it is so much more.  For me it has spawned some of the greatest friendships of my life,

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New Media Cincinnati Second Saturday Event

and that says A LOT!

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12 thoughts on “Virtual Community in the Real Realm”

  1. Hearing the things you and others shared last night truly inspires me for next week’s Second Saturday event. I’m sure we’ll be hearing more stories of relationships built, businesses formed, personal and professional growth, etc.

    Thanks for being a part of this community!

  2. It’s hard to not be energized by all the social media happenings in Cincinnati and other communities. Reminded of JDJ’s comments on the psychosocial networks being built – redefining the old demographic group model. And what a great group of innovators! So glad I hitched along for the trip!

  3. I’ve always made a point of blurring the line between digital and “real space” interactions. It’s all social, just a question of where the conversation is taking place.

    It has been terrific getting to know you Michelle. Common roots, common interests, and naturally social temperments did a lot to draw us together.

    Daniel Johnson Jr. is somone I met when I was still in New Orleans. I was reaching out to soc med people and local bloggers trying to meet a few people and get a feel for things before we came up. Of course New Media Cincy was near the top of the Google results.

    He was, as I’m sure you know, incredibly generous and helpful once we made contact. He and Julie who writes WinMeDineMe.com were fantastic, helping me get the lay of the land on subjects ranging from the socmed scene to local cuisine.

    Back home the bloggers and social media people are a fairly tightly knit group. Regular face to face gatherings occur ranging from Mardi Gras parades to Geek Dinners. Since it was my Katrina blogging that got me started my attitude has always been to blur the line between face-to-face and online interactions.

    If you’re doing it right then opportunities for meeting up are always on the front burner. Tweet Ups, Geek Dinners, and other gatherings are what really solidify a local/regional community.

    As an example here is a recent Mercatus Center piece about the NOLA blogger scene. [Transparency: I’m one of the featured voices interviewed so you’ll get a bit more background on me as well.]

    http://localknowledge.mercatus.org/highlights/networking-through-disaster/

  4. Thanks all for your thoughts. I think it is evident that we all feel fortunate to have made such great connections. George: thanks for providing that link. Gives us great insight into how Katrina inspired a community revolution. “Geek Dinners”? Had one of those tonight as we gathered to listen to one of our own digital media guys: Drew LaPlante play live at the Exemplar.

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