Monday, March 8, 2010

Social Media Has Made Me an Extrovert

Current Mood: Sleepy...but jazzed about running

Current Song: Imaginary Friends by Ron Sexsmith

Sorry it's been a few days, everyone. Been a bit busy catching up (or rather keeping up) with life. But it's all good. Just hoping that March ends quickly.

Last week, I had my first IRL (In Real Life) experience of meeting a fellow writer-turned-friend from Montreal. I had never met her before. But we had a lovely cup of coffee and a chat downtown last week. It was great to connect with someone who has similar interests, varying viewpoints, that you can learn from.

As most of you know probably know by now, I'm an introvert of probably the highest degree. Being in crowds for long periods of time makes me a bit edgy and I need lots and lots of time to recouperate after having been out. In general I find networking to be extremely draining and sometimes I just don't have the patience for small talk.

But that has changed to quite a significant degree thanks to social media.

You would think that social media users are probably nerds that are hidden away from the world and do nothing but click away at their keyboards for extended periods of time. This must be some archaic version of a computer nerd, but I find it no longer applies. Many social media users are savvy, networking and outright extraverted folks who like to connect with others on ideas and share their own.

For introverts such as myself, it makes the prospect of meeting someone much less scary because you've already been primed in advance to what that person might be like. And I find twitter users to be more authentic than those on other social media sites. Unless this person is completely lying, introverts have a great opportunity to meet someone in person. It's almost like having a chance to read their resume or google them in advance, but much less creepy.

I was surprised that I took the opportunity for an IRL meeting. A few years ago, this would have been a complete introvert no-no. But as I expand my social circle to include many social media connections (some of whom are quickly becoming good friends and colleagues), I find that networking with folks I haven't connected with before gets easier.

So introverts, take a chance and go for an IRL if you haven't already. Here's what works:

1. Keep it simple: probably a coffee or something inocuous like drinks would be great.

2. If you feel the need to keep it short, do so. You don't have to be there for four hours out of politeness .

3. If you're dead nervous about it, think back to conversations you've already had with this person and prepare ahead of time on what you could ask/talk about. You don't have to bust out a cue card, but when I'm nervous it helps to look through my social rolodex.

4. Have fun. This isn't a job interview (unless it is a job interview). Relax. You already know this person, so no need to get all strung out about it.

I had a great time with my first IRL and I hope to have many more (one coming up this next month!).

Have you had an IRL already? What was it like? What tips can you share?

PS: My friend Emily Jasper has written a great article on her blog about getting to know her social media friends on a level other than business. She shares her experience here


Sam said...

Fantastic post, my friend! Social media has had a similar effect on me. I've been fortunate enough to have met about ten Twitter/social media friends IRL, and it's been lots of fun every time! I definitely second your recommendation that everyone take the opportunity to have a real life meet up. It's just a different kind of bond. Now, we just need to live closer to one another so that WE can meet!

Andrea V. Lewis said...

Similar to online dating, social media allows this 'getting to know you period' break that awkward ice that generally happens on first meetings.

I recently hosted my first tweet-up. I met 7 local tweeps and had great conversations on social media over coffee. I highly suggest it b/c you not only get a chance to meet new people that you would never have met under normal circumstances, it's a great way to network.

Just another reason to love social media, right? Nice post, thanks for sharing!

Lindsey said...

I am genuinely surprised to learn that you're an introvert! You're so conversational and fabulous online, I only assumed you loved to chat it up over a glass of coffee or 4. But this intrigues me even more, actually. I'd love to get coffee with you, I wish we were in the same city so I could learn more about you!

Sometimes friendships work well when one person is an introvert and the other an extrovert. The difference in personalities balance each other out.

Beth said...

You rock, girlie. AND I totally wouldn't freak out and run away if you busted out a cue-card during our IRL meeting. (THAT WILL HAPPEN ONE DAY I SWEAR.)
True story, social media has definitely made me and I love it for that :)

Mehnaz said...

Sam - that's brilliant! And yes, I agree that we need to live closer :)

Andrea - Thanks for commenting! And I completely agree. Aside from the normal bar scene, it's difficult to meet genuine people. And not being in university anymore, that opportunity diminishes to only the work place. Good on you for hosting a tweet up :)

Lindsey - are you really? I'm surprised that you're surprised! Yes, i've always been shy (my family moved a lot, so I went from hanging by one wall to hanging by another). Had I known you when I was in Paris two years ago, I'd have loved to connect over cafe. Alors, une autre fois, ma belle amie!

Beth - Thanks! I might just do that when we meet up :)

Emily Jasper said...

I know I said Thank You on Brazen, but I wanted to say that here, rock!

Isao said...

Thanks for sharing your story. As an INFP I definitely can relate to the draining social experience part, but again, like you found my way and voice through blog, twitter (great tool for engaging without feeling like confronting), and Brazen. I liked the "relax, it's not a job interview" part. Strangely, I can act better in a job interview (and spend the next three hours staring at the ceiling)

Mehnaz said...

Em - No problem. You're pretty rockin' yourself :)

Isao - I know what you mean. I'm an INTJ. You make a good point about job interviews. It's because of our tendency to prepare ahead of time. That's exactly what makes social situations scary. They're unpredictable. And anyone who knows or is an introvert will attest to the fact that we don't do so well with the break in routine :) Thanks for commenting!

Karim Kanji said...


I never thought about it from that perspective. Since January, whenever I go out to different industry events, I look forward to actually meeting up with the people I tweet with. I've also been able to get a variety of "job" opportunities as a result of Twitter.

That being said, looking forward to hearing more of your IRL meetings!


Mehnaz said...

KK - it's great, isn't it?

I love meeting people that way as well.

Perhaps we'll have an IRL soon, given we live in the same country :)