The internet is made up of real people, just like you

My friend Corey Denis and I have been coworking at cafes a lot lately, and if you don’t know who Corey is, she’s (as I call her) the Queen of Social Media, in the Music industry specifically. I’m quite the Social Media butterfly myself, so we’re birds of a feather, and now that I have more Marketing and Social Strategy clients than ever before, Corey and I have been meeting more often to share information, inspiration, tips, tricks, and support each other in our respective consulting businesses.

Today I was relaying a story to her about how I had reached out to someone I had discovered online; someone who does similar work as myself, helping crafters and small business owners. After researching this woman online, and becoming impressed with her service offerings and the community she’s amassed, I reached out and said hello to her on Twitter. A very genuine, friendly hello and praise – the internet form of the high-five or pat on the back with a warm smile. However, when this person replied a few days later, all I got was her retweeting my tweet, and a “Thx”.

Now I’m not saying I was necessarily *expecting* so much more than that, but I will say that it felt a little flat to me. Which inspired this tweet:

When someone reaches out to you to say hello, and that they think you're awesome, stop and take time to really see their awesomeness, too. - @WilloToons

Now I want to be clear, I’m not trying to be up on some high horse, saying that I have always done this 100% myself. Obviously we all get busy, and it can be challenging at times to even keep up with our social networks, let alone genuinely interact and utilize them to their fullest potential. However, I can confidently say that I interact as genuinely as possible, and I believe that is why I have had such success utilizing this medium, both personally and professionally. I truly value recognizing every person as an individual, and absolutely LOVE the opportunity and gift the internet given us for connecting with people (customers, clients, new friends, lovers, etc.) around the world.

This also isn’t to say that the woman I reached out to is “doing it wrong” or that I’m calling her out, by any means. Not at all. For all I know she did take the time to genuinely learn a bit more about the work I’m doing, but just didn’t have the space to share that with me. No big deal, and that’s truly not what this post is about. I’m simply using this interaction as an example and segue into a larger conversation around how we’re interacting with each other online.

Talking this out with Corey, she relayed a story about a friend of hers who works at a startup, and how recently – thanks to *one* negative/complaining tweet from someone out there, who happens to have a fairly significant following – she had a day that was completely turned upside down, 10x more difficult and emotionally exhausting. Think any of those hundreds of people involved in that conversation are taking that reality into consideration? Just something to think about next time you spew negativity. Try humble, honest, respectful communication first.

We’re in an interesting time right now. All of this is still SO new, and as a result we’ve taken to witness the range of implications sprouting from our interconnectivity. Everything from the happy stories (soul-mates/love/marriage, keeping in touch with your friends and family, etc.) to the amazing opportunities (entrepreneurial, charitable, socioeconomically, etc.) to the unfortunate and horrific abuse (trolls, flamewars, riots, death-threats, etc.). So much joy, and so much pain; one thing’s for sure, we’re learning.

So let this just be a reminder (specifically, this video… thanks, Derek Sivers!): When you’re interacting online, remember that there are real people behind these usernames and brands. Sure, not all of them are operating from a genuinely honest or transparent place, but it’s already very clear that the more REAL you are, the better. People will call you on it otherwise! Transparency is key. Communication is key. Being compassionate and really taking the time to respond from an authentic place, as much as possible, is key.

Go forth and be awesome.

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