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Intrinsic Extroversion – Reaching Out By Reaching In

February 28, 2012

It’s all in the genes

Many of you have only met me in the last few years and most likely it has been through social media – forums, facebook, twitter, etc. Truth is I’ve been participating in social media in its most archaic forms since I was a child and that was initially fostered by my father. I get my geeky genes from him. After all, my dad’s idea of heaven is was Radio Shack.

What a ham!

My dad became an amateur radio operator (also known as ham radio) in 1956. He’d talk to people from around the world while sitting in his bedroom, all through the use of technology. (Incidentally, I’m am amateur radio operator too – callsign VE1TAM). When I was a young child I remember going down into our basement to his ham shack (what amateur radio operator’s call their room of radio gear). He had a teletype set up (these things were humongous!) and I’d marvel that I could type words and they’d be transmitted to someone else’s machine hundreds or thousands of miles away. I was equally shocked when what they typed began being typed out on my machine. It was as if the machine was possessed!

I was on the Internet before it was the Internet

From teletypes we progressed to the most rudimentary form of the BBS. I remember being a young teen having conversations with other amateur radio operators via our computer. I’d send a message to a friend’s address and before long the little green light on our box was flashing. It would indicate there was a message waiting for me in my mailbox. An early form of email I guess you’d say.

Then in January of 1996, I got hooked up to that “internet thing” and had my own official email account, could chat with people using mIRC,  then ICQ (uh oh!) and all the other wonderful forms of social media that have led us to present day like Twitter, Facebook, etc.

Interacting with other people through the written word has always been part of who I am. I love turning thoughts in my head into words on a screen and pushing SEND.

In fact, I *might* be a little bit addicted 🙂

So what is the common theme in this history lesson?

Connecting.

Connecting with other people despite physical distance. Connecting with them from the comfort of wherever you are and your message being received by them wherever they are. Connecting with others about topics we’re interested in, causes we support, sharing recipes and ideas, sharing our art forms and wares. All of it a sharing of thoughts between two or more people.

It makes us feel like we’re part of a larger community. Gone are the barriers of communication based solely on proximity. We can literally reach out and connect with someone on the other side of the world. We can share and communicate with people that even ten years ago we would not have been able to connect with – all because of the advances in communications based technology. That’s a pretty awesome gift.

But do you take this amazing gift for granted? Are you recognizing the true value of the ability to reach out at any time to a multitude of people or have you become complacent? Do you even realize the impact you are capable of if you employ these tools and make a conscious decision to utilize them?

Have we become complacent in our interpersonal communication?

I’m referring to reaching out to others and going back to the grassroots level. How often do you take the time to write an email to a relative and truly inquire about how their life is going? How often do you send a text to a friend to check up on them when you haven’t heard from them in a while? How often do you send your best friend from high school a message on facebook to let them know you’re thinking about them?

Have we, as a society – a society where social media is so front and center in our every day lives, actually become disengaged from those we care? Has social media given us a false sense of connectivity based on the fact we all have email addresses, smart phones, blogs, facebook accounts?

Do we more often than not assume “if they want to talk to me they know 10 ways to contact me” – believing that because we have the ability to check in on someone by lurking in the realm of social media (by reading their facebook walls, their blog posts, their twitter feed) that we are in fact connecting with them? While we may learn things about their lives through these forms of social media it still isn’t interactive. Those people don’t know you’ve read their posts if you’re not interacting with them.

Is social media actually making us antisocial?

 We have the ability to reach out and connect but how often do we truly do it? We seem to revolve around each other with virtual billboards displaying our latest news, assuming everyone we know will just read it. We chalk it up to being efficient – why email 100 people individually when you can post something on your facebook wall and reach all of them at the same time? But what if we’re just kidding ourselves? What if all this social media is just really making us antisocial? What about the people in our lives who aren’t part of our social media circles? Have we really forgotten how to interact directly with people? Must all of our communication be en masse?

Sometimes a simple experiment brings understanding

All of this contemplation found me issuing a challenge on twitter today. I first asked my followers if they felt impacted in a positive way when someone reached out to them directly – through an email, a facebook message, a text, etc. Nearly all responded that yes, of course they did. It made them happy and brightened their day to know someone took the time to contact them in a direct and deliberate way.

I then challenged my followers to extend that courtesy of purposeful communication to three people in their lives. It could be delivered through whichever method they preferred – email, phone, text, etc. Without even doing it I had an enthusiastic group excited to spread some joy to others.

So what was the outcome?

At the end of the day I asked for a report – had anyone taken me up on the challenge and followed through? To my delight many had. They had touched the lives of at least three other people today – all because they made the conscious decision to reach out to them.

In nearly every case the recipient of the message indicated it had made a positive impact on their day. Knowing someone was thinking about them and had taken the time out of their busy schedule to make a concerted effort to truly connect resonated on a deeper level. All because they took the time to consciously go back to the basics of one-on-one communication. One participant even went so far as to say they are going to implement this challenge into their morning routine in hopes of positively impacting the lives of others on a regular basis. How awesome is that?

Kindness is contagious

Once people feel the positive impact of having a kindness extended to them, they feel more compelled to do the same to another person. A domino effect is created.

Drop someone a quick email, send them a text – do something to make a connection. After all, you know how much it means to you when someone extends that kindness to you. Why not return the favor or better yet, pay it forward?

Don’t just think about them – tell them

So, next time you’re thinking about someone don’t just think about them. Tell them you’re thinking about them. You never know just how much impact a simple “Hi, how have you been?” might have on another person’s day.

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6 Comments

  • Reply Jenna February 29, 2012 at 9:12 AM

    This was a great way to start my day. The little things mean a lot. They also keep us human in this high-speed technological world. Thank you for sharing these ideas. You have a gift, Tammi – not only as a communicator, but as a wise and truly relatable human being. Never stop! 🙂

    • Reply Tammi February 29, 2012 at 12:07 PM

      Thanks so much Jenna. I happen to think you’re pretty damn awesome yourself and I’m often inspired by your own commitment to reach out to others through your postcards, handwritten notes and fun packages sent via post. The ability we possess to brighten the day of others truly doesn’t take much effort at all but the rewards are pretty powerful 🙂

  • Reply Jackie February 29, 2012 at 12:01 PM

    I couldn’t love this post more!

    I find myself so often in the blogging/twitter habit of just reading. and have started to make a real effort to respond and comment. This post is a great reminder to keep doing that!
    🙂

    • Reply Tammi February 29, 2012 at 12:07 PM

      I’ve been making a more concerted effort to comment more and let people know I’m reading. It takes very little time but does mean so much to others when they’ve taken the time to put their thoughts out there and knowing someone is reading just makes it all that more sweet.

  • Reply Holly February 29, 2012 at 3:47 PM

    Great post, I think you nailed it, I often feel lonley, even though we have all the social media to keep us “connected”. I belive it has made us more anti-social and we need to still make the effort to see people in real life if possible, Social media should be in addiition to a physical frendship when possible not replace it!

    • Reply Tammi March 6, 2012 at 8:36 AM

      It is a real juggling act – trying to find time for people in real life and trying to cultivate relationships with people online at the same time. Both have value and it is great when the two cross over and you meet people in real life from online. It is still all about making connections and fostering them, though 🙂

    A penny for your thoughts?