Have you ever felt disconnected? People will argue that there is really no excuse to not have some connections today. Connections to the past: hello, high school person whom I didn’t like then and doubt I will now. Connections to the present: tweets rolling in about things I have never heard of and probably didn’t need to. Connections to the future: possible dates matched and delivered, replete with highly questionable photos.
After living around the U.S. and abroad, I am connected to friends and acquaintances via social media and email. But, it is not on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram that I have found my most interesting connections to people – it is in talking to people that I have discovered weird and unexpected connections that seem to mean a little more and last a little longer than just scrolling through the algorithm’s “people you might know.” I mean if we really talk – you know, open up and share things that bounce around in our gut, ricocheting off our heart and liver, it is in such conversations, we will discover that it is really a small world, and we are totally and utterly not alone. Let me prove it.
- Weird Coincidence Friendship: Exhibit A: Some years back (when I was on match.com) a Russian man from upstate New York messaged me, asking why I spoke Russian. We struck up an online friendship that led to two real-time meetings when middle son visited colleges. There was no “match” except for the fact that I had gone to school about two blocks away from his school in Moscow; and, we had lived in Chicago at the same time; and, we both had three children; and, we both are twice divorced in the same years. Sure, we started out online, but real conversation solidified a friendship that at the moment is centered around the on-going political fiasco in our country.
- What Are the Odds Connection: Exhibit B: Last weekend youngest son and I met with a former student/current friend who is a linguistics professor. In the course of our catching up, I told her about eldest son’s adventure in Peru and my motherly trepidations about his sudden travel. Turns out, she does research on disappearing languges in Peru, has in-the-field colleagues there, and she has been there several times and vouched for the relative safety of the country.
- Collegial Connections: Exhibit C: In working with a wide variety of teachers, I often discover some level of connection to other educators. Just a couple of weeks ago, I was working with a teacher who had been at a school where I had taught years prior to her tenure. Nevertheless, we discovered that we not only have shared acquaintance with some of the teachers who worked there over the years, but also that she taught the daughter of one of my dear friends.
- Really, Truly Unbelievable: Exhibit D: When middle son was in middle school, he was at a birthday party. As I waited for the party to finish, a fellow parent I were chatting. It came to light that he had lived in West Des Moines (where I went to high school), and as it turned out, I am a classmate of one of his daughters, and I knew his other two children. He had since divorced and remarried, and the daughter at the party in question was a great friend of my middle son. Oh, this all took place in Augusta, Georgia.
Would I have ever known about these connections or had these conversations if I had spent most of my time online? Maybe. But, having these conversations filled with mutual discovery, shared backgrounds and interests, and multiple exclamations of “What a small world!” created a connections that are more than a birthday reminder or notices about what events everyone is “interested in.” Don’t get me wrong: I use social media as much as the next guy. (Obviously!) But, maybe we ought to continue to age-old tradition of real conversation – who knows, we might find that we like it.