The Gift of Social Media

A day or so before I was to depart for college, I became violently ill with what I thought was gastroenteritis, (what people commonly call stomach flu). But it cleared up almost immediately after I met my roommate and settled into my dorm room.

It was really stress, you see, from a girl who had almost never been out of her white-bread, suburban Detroit, lower-middle class community. We were poor, and even restaurant dinners and family vacations were totally foreign to me. The idea of being 90 miles away from my mother and family was sufficiently stressful to induce 2 days of vomiting.

After college I returned to the same suburban community where I grew up, beginning my first career as a police officer and maintaining some old friendships and forging  new ones among co-workers and neighbors. I stayed safely snuggled in those six square miles, leaving infrequently and never going very far when I did.

Then I met and married my husband, and he yanked me out of my safety zone to live in his world. That world was only another suburb about a 1/2 hour drive away, but to me it was like moving to another planet. I didn’t know the geography and, before cell phones and computers, immediately lost touch with many people.  I didn’t get physically sick this time, but I was irritable, argumentative, or crying for at least 3 months after moving. More stress.

So I wasn’t really sure what to expect a few weeks ago when I packed up my dogs and car and  began the biggest move of my life: 1,400 miles and almost 24 hours of driving, from Novi, Michigan to Naples, Florida – from the same 30 or so square miles I had lived my entire life to, as my friend Dave Ryan said, ” just north of Cuba.”

This time, though, I didn’t get physically sick. I haven’t screamed, cried, or other wise acted out. I’ve been tired, sure, but peaceful. Calm. Happy. This time, my friends and family have been with me the entire time:

  • Driving across the Brent Spence Bridge in Cincinnati, when I thought of Eric Weingardner, Jennifer McClure, Benjamin McCall,  and several others who live there.
  • Hearing “Everyday People” by Sly and the Family Stone on Sirius/XM Sixties radio in Kentucky, which I will forever associate with Steve Browne‘s broad smile and ready hug.
  • Driving by the I-71/Louisville exit and recapturing the HRevolution #1 post-lunch walk with Lisa Rosendahl.
  • Thinking of Mike Krupa when the rakish young man in a Mini Cooper flashed me a bright smile as he passed in northern Tennessee.
  • Watching a family walk their GSD puppy in a Georgia rest area and wondering how Deirdre Honner was.
  • Driving through Atlanta and remembering everyone from HRevolution #3, especially Neil Morrison, James Papiano, Tammy Colson, and Frank Zupan.
  • Hearing Jason Danieley sing “You Walk With Me” from The Full Monty, who is forever associated in my mind with Trish McFarlane.
  • Having several Floridian Facebook friends reassure me that I will get used to, even welcome, having geckos skitter across the kitchen floor.
All of the people I named, plus hundreds of others that space prevented me from naming, are friends with whom I first connected on social media. Others are people with whom the social connection had been lost 20 or 30 years ago but with whom I have reconnected. All of them – every Facebook friend and Twitter follower – make me feel whole. The sense of community and involvement I get from their active participation keeps me from ever feeling lost or alone.

Last week I went to my first Florida HR meeting. I was inevitably asked by a tablemate what I did for a living. I explained a little about me and my social media venture.  One of the people at the table made the standard complaint about social media and “not wanting to read about what people eat for breakfast.”

I don’t mind hearing about your breakfast; I find it endearing. I want to see pictures of your kids and grandkids, too. Tell me about your good days and your bad – I’ll try to be there for both, because the gift of fellowship I get in return is worth it.

Social media changed my life, and it is the greatest gift I have ever received. Thank you.

Have a wonderful holiday season and the best New Year ever.


16 thoughts on “The Gift of Social Media”

  1. Hi Joan… nice blog. I agree that social media is a great gift and tool that can make us feel at home wherever we are in the world. Nonetheless I worry about it’s implications for young people who spend most of their lives on Facebook falling in to the trap of scarcely living through their own authentic experiences. In principal Facebook is fine, but it remains to be seen whether or not or a whole generation of young people growing up with less and less self-discipline could contract social phobia from completely overusing it.

  2. Joan – What a wonderful post. I totally with you on the benefits of Social Media. When I travel for business I no longer worry about it because I can call on my Social Media buddies for information or to meet me for a drink at the pub. Congrats on the move and I hope the geckos are entertaining. If I ever pass by you in my Mini, you know I will flash you a bright smile even if my rakish looks are behind me now.

  3. Thanks for reading and commenting! I can’t see the impact on the future generations, either, but I have a little less pessimistic view of social media’s impact. I have Gen y/Millennial children and I have grandchildren (ages 3-16) of whatever generation comes next. I have watched them and their social media use pretty carefully, just for the concerns you voice. Maybe they are not good examples, but I find they are far less dependent on social media (particularly Facebook) then people might assume. They, too, seem to use social media as a way to enhance and maintain face-to-face experiences, and are not simply relying on it to frame their entire view of the world. I think things will be okay. :)

  4. Mike, you are wrong about the rakish days being behind you, and I cannot stress enough about how broadly that kid in the Cooper made me smile! It was a wonderful combination of “in the moment” and “happy memory”. Thanks for being my friend. :)

  5. Hi Joan,

    Great post that I really enjoyed and that really resonated with me.

    Really liked how you took us to, and through, the transformation you experienced.
    You really put the human into resources here, the social into the media.

    And you are right on–it just might be the “machine”–the internet, social media, etc.–that helps us become more fully human ourselves, and with each other, after all.
    Imagine that!

    So glad I found your blog from Trish McFarlane’s HRRingleader blogroll.
    I look forward to learning much from you as I learn more about the profession!


  6. Joan,

    Excellent. Slowly but surely our great state is becoming a “Social Media/HR Powerhouse”! Eventually we may be able to give Cincinnati (and Ohio) a run for their money.

    Welcome. Yes, the lizards are normal (they eat the roaches in the summer)and the humidity…well the humidity is how we tell the difference between tourists and locals.

    You’re an amazing ambassador for everything that is right about Social Media in HR and I loved this post!



  7. Great post Joan. I echo your sentiments entirely. Social Media (especially Twitter) has allowed me to meet so many amazing people that I find it hard to grasp people who don’t embrace it. With people as you as an evangelist, maybe more will find this out.

  8. My dear, sweet friend, you captured the real benefit of social media…the connection. Like you, I think of many of those same people if I had driven that route. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of all my friends met through social media and smile. In fact, every time I hear about anything or anyone in Michigan, I think of you and cherry wine. :)
    Best wishes on the move. I know it will be great because you’re right, all your friends are right there with you no matter where you are. Hope to see you soon in 2012! Happy New Year. Love, Trish

  9. Bryan – thanks so much for visiting! I think business in general could use more “human” in their resources. I am oft-reminded of the message from “You’ve Got Mail” – when Tom Hanks insisted “It’s not personal – it’s business.” Meg Ryan replied, “What does that mean? It’s personal to ME!” Isn’t this essentially the argument of #occupy supporters? Business could be more personal?

    Of course, I am humbled that Trish includes me in her blog roll, because there is no smarter HR blogger out there. I just like to tell stories. :)

    Thanks again!

  10. John Nyk – I am so excited to become part of the HR Florida scene. I went to my new local SHRM chapter meeting, and, despite the anti-social media breakfast comment, I was impressed by the size of the turnout and the cross-section of people represented in this county. I’m gonna love it here!

  11. John J – One of the things that is hardest for me is to have patience with social media non-believers and nay-sayers. One of the reasons I am an evangelist, I guess. I want everyone to have these benefits. right. now.

  12. Trish, you are such a sweetheart! I know you went to high school with Jason Danieley, but I don’t know if you have ever heard his song from “The Full Monty” – here’s a verse:
    Is it the wind, over my shoulder
    Is it the wind that I hear gently whispering
    Are you alone, there in the valley
    No not alone, for you walk, you walk with me.

    That song describes how I feel about all of my SoMe friends – especially you. We WILL see each other sometime in 2012. :)

  13. What a great story! Wish you could have stopped while you were traveling through Cincinnati, but I’m sure the dogs were itching to get to Florida. :)

    It’s been great to get to know you via social media – and in person. And I’m grateful for the gift of your friendship!

  14. I guess the truth really does make the best story! I would have loved to stop and meet Sarabi, but you’re right – the dogs dictate my life sometimes. Thanks for being a great friend, Jennifer!

  15. We felt you buzzing through Atlanta- welcome to the South and enjoy your new roots- I know you will do just fine in Fla!

  16. Buzzing through Atlanta is a pretty accurate description, Debbie. My husband and I were having a cell phone conversation (he was in another car) about the definition of occupant and whether having 3 dogs with me qualified me for the HOV lane. 😉

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