Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Socializing and Circling People

I grew up in the suburbs of Beirut at a time when all the neighbors knew each others, women had early morning coffee together, men played backgammon during their leisure time and, kids played freely in the alleys after school. Growing up in such a relaxed social environment nurtured my socializing habits which started at the very early age of six. At that age, I loved watching TV. Unfortunately, we did not have a television set at home until I was nine. My father believed that TV was a bad influence on us during school days so we only had a TV set in our village home, where we used to spend our summer vacations.

In spite of my dad’s restrictions, I managed to watch my favorite programs all year long. To do that, I selected a couple of people from my neighborhood who shared my “passion” for TV. I can remember “Imm George”, an old lady who I visited twice a week so we could watch local sitcoms that we both loved so much. And then there was “Hasmik,” a young Armenian woman in her twenties and mother of a little baby girl; I sometimes served as a babysitter for her. Hasmik and I watched soaps and dramas on TV. And my passion for action and thriller programs was satisfied with my best friend from childhood, “Naji.” He was one year older than I and my second-in-command when organizing parties, monitoring games and solving conflicts among the local kids.

As I managed to wisely allocate my time without affecting my school results or abusing the kindness of any of our neighbors, my parents found no harm with my strange socializing habits. Finally, Dad gave up on his theory of TV blackout and bought us a television set, which was great news for me but not for my TV buddies who kept reminiscing about our shared evenings and insisted on inviting me to their homes long after my childhood years had passed.

“In the long history of humankind, those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.” − Charles Darwin

My passion for watching TV continued until the beginning of the Internet era. A new technology was born, and a new passion has blossomed in me. I started actively using the Internet around the year 2000, connecting with my old friends scattered around the world. Then, I realized that I was not taking full advantage of the web. So I decided to infuse my name in a pen pal database to connect with more people and find new friends. Although I got many replies that were mostly useless, I managed to build, as a result of that venture, some very good friendships that have endured.

Being a faithful advocate for social media, I can’t overlook the many “non-believers” and their skeptical view that no real friendship can ever blossom out of social media connections. I, on the contrary, believe that having the opportunity to think before we speak gives us a much better chance to have a useful dialog, and to help overcome our buried fear of rejection and adverse scrutiny.

Another criticism I have heard a multitude of times is the impossibility of having a large number of friends in real life—so how would this be possible in the virtual world? Well my answer is that it is actually more feasible on the web to have a large number of friends than in real life, because the whole world is within our reach and is full of people who share our interests. Moreover, for friendship-thirsty souls, it is absolutely necessary in this disconnected world to be fully connected through the web because it brings similar people together no matter their location or time zone.

“Social media spark a revelation that we, the people, have a voice, and through the democratization of content and ideas we can once again unite around common passions, inspire movements, and ignite change.”
― Brian Solis

I like Facebook because it allows me to connect with friends and family. I love Twitter, since it generates a never-ending stream of information, to pick, filter, process and store, nurturing my everlasting love for new information and connections. But, I must admit, my real passion goes to Google+ because it embodies brilliantly the concept of communities and brings back to me my old childhood habits of socializing and circling people.

My passion for social media will continue to grow because it allows me to open my heart and mind, to connect and learn, to love and support − hence to be myself. I will end this post with a message to all non-believers of social media:

“How can you squander even one more day not taking advantage of the greatest shifts of our generation? How dare you settle for less when the world has made it so easy for you to be remarkable?” −Seth Godin

Thank You RAP for your valuable Comments!