Posted in Relationships, SocialMedia

“Social” Media ~ A Review of the #USGUYS TwinCities TweetUp

Get out your reading glasses, a box of tissues and prepare to ponder!

A little background first:  I’ve been tweeting with #usguys folks since the group formed.  Many have come and gone, but there are some regulars.  I have found “family” … a sense of “coming home” in my online connection with those who are regular participants of the nightly #Nightshift Checkin.  This process is usually led by @StephenCaggiano around 10pm nightly.  Between Libby Baker Sweiger ( @libbytalks ) and @ImMarkBernhardt, a Tweetup was planned in the Twin Cities for April 20th.  I had just finished reading @GabeBerman‘s book “Live Like a Fruit Fly” {click on the title and read my book review}  His perspectives and reminders about the preciousness of life sent me on a journey of self-examination.  Questions like am I happy?  Am I really doing what I want to be doing?  How appreciative am I of the things I have?  Do I show well to others gratitude for their participation in the liturgy (dance routine) of my existence?

My mind was made up!  I was going to drive the six hours North to meet IRL <– In Real Life, these wonderful people who Indications of Economic Improvementtweeted with persistence during our last storm that brought four dozen tornadoes through Nebraska.  They weren’t going to go to bed until they knew me and my family were “out of the woods!”  Where do you find friends like this who are not related to you?  I didn’t until #usguys.

So anyway, I scheduled a day off from work just to attend, booked a room, and made arrangements for care of our parrot (named DJ), and our adorable cat Clara!  We packed up and headed to Minneapolis / St Paul!  I was overwhelmed with the amount of trucker traffic!  If 18-wheeler activity is any indication of economic health, then good ole U.S. of A. has nothing to worry about!  The other noticeable thing about Iowa that impressed me while driving through was their message about being a leader in clean renewable energy!  We passed at least two huge wind farms on the East side of the highway on our way up North.  Our journey was without stress or vehicle troubles and we arrived at our Country Inn and Suites lodging in Woodbury, Minnesota a half hour before we were due to meet at Lakes Tavern and Grill!

Upon arriving at the Tavern with my wife and three children, we were shown to the area where the rest of #usguys were waiting to be seated.  Right away I recognized Libby, she looks exactly like her picture and her personality translates well in real life.  Stephen Caggiano was the same–genuine, sincere in an unassuming way.  Mark Bernhardt took me a little while to connect the dots because in his previous Twitter pic sported a cowboy hat!  Mimi Baker ( @MimiBakerMN ) was recognizable and her wittiness on Twitter translates into real life as well–great gal!  Sumner Musolf ( @SumnerMusolf ) took me a while to resolve because his Twitter pic didn’t show facial hair–the man has a beard! @MaryJTraviski was there long enough for introductions and had to leave–but I’m sure I’ll get to know her better on Twitter.

So, here’s what everyone looked like, sorry for the lighting in the group picture.  An elderly guy watching all these adults sitting around a table with other people, but their eyes focused on the phones in there hands offered help take a group photo when we began taking pictures of each other.  My son, Josh and his comic drawings were a hit with the crowd–everyone was gracious and Josh felt proud to receive accolades from people outside of the family.

So, keep in mind, I had just come off a two day affair…meeting with the whole group the night of the 20th at the Tavern.  The next day, my family and I met Mark Bernhardt at the Mall of America (which is an incredible, but noisy place) for lunch, and that evening we met Stephen Caggiano and Libby Baker Sweiger at Perkins Restaurant for dinner.

My faith in the goodness of mankind, was reaffirmed by the fact that the real life experience with these #usguys was just as rich as what I have experienced online.  Stephen is well connected in his social network, but extremely generous with his connections, experiences and advice.  Libby is sweet and a very deep feeling individual–a good listener (even though her Twitter handle is @libbytalks!)  Mimi Baker, a single mother of two boys, is bubbly and spontaneous!  Mark Bernhardt and Sumner were somehow familiar, very comfortable to be around….it really felt like a 20 year high school reunion.

Now, here’s the part where you may need a tissue! 

Earlier this week a dear friend in the #usguys family underwent surgery for cancer.  As you can imagine, the twitter stream was turbulent with tweets of concern, prayers, thoughts, and words of encouragement.  I find myself frequently throughout the day thinking about those who I regularly tweet with–ALL of them!

So two days ago, I was standing at the kitchen sink washing, listening to music on the radio and my mind drifted to — #usguys.  I became aware of the level of emotional energy I feel pouring through me when I tweet encouraging words to others, cheer colleagues and friends in their professional pursuits, inquire to others about how their day is going, etc!

That’s when it hit me, the realization that I don’t feel the same level of energy in my day-to-day relationships!  My biological family that I was born into, the family that my wife and I created, my friends, my colleagues….they are “here”….just like the pictures that hang on your walls, the nick nacks, the stacks of magazines you walk past everyday but no longer notice (value) because they’ve become part of the fabric or skin of your life.  We don’t pay attention to the fact we have skin until it dries out, itches, cracks, gets cut or banged!  Our minds are always searching for something new and exciting…it stops “seeing” what we already have (the known factor) that has become part of the periphery.  Perhaps that is what is so rewarding about social media…just like the words in a well written book, it carries you away from your three-dimensional existence that requires effort, time, energy beyond your own skin?  Whether it be a “New Interaction” on Twitter, or a new status update from someone on Facebook…these tools always keep something new & fresh in front of our eyes!

So, feeling NOT okay with these realizations, I decided to make a concerted effort to reexamine those in the here and now with the same curiosity, interest, value, and preciousness that I do with “new and effortless” connections with those in social media.  Perhaps its narcissism that makes social media relationships “easier?”  We find communications/communities of interest that echo our own passions, personality types and discover a mirror that affirms the “who & what” we think of ourselves.

I don’t like to think of myself as someone who takes others for granted or makes assumptions about others!  But if I look at my own behavior, I have to say I’m guilty, just as probably many of you are for how we manage relationships.  I’ve said for years that love is a verb…so determined to practice what I preach, I stopped at the grocery store on my way home last night from class to buy my wife a bouquet of flowers and a card to express my gratitude.  I am purposely choosing to look for the “new & exciting” in the “everyday” routines of life.   New and exciting is there ~ every day — dust doesn’t collect on things that get used (paid attention to) frequently–but it requires a conscious effort on our part to “see [to actively look]” it!

Sorry for the long post, but these thoughts cannot be confined to the “standard 300-500 word entry”  To all reading this post, if this message resonates with you, I’d be curious to hear your thoughts.

Peace out!

Posted in SocialMedia

My First TweetUp!

A friend of mine, Brian Smith,  who works at Rebel Interactive, invited me to a local TweetUp on Facebook.  Looking at the confirmed event attendees list I saw that Katie Knapp Schubert, from my most listened to radio station KIOS-FM was going to be there!  I have an awfully long commute to work each day and I have heard her voice for the last several years. I’m the type that achieves a certain level of satisfaction in being able to put a face to a name, so I just had to go.

California Tacos and More was the location of the event.  I had completed my homework and made a list of all the Facebook confirmed attendees–I annotated what line of work each attendee is in and was prepared to experience my first TweetUp.  It sounds simple enough, but I didn’t want to make any assumptions about what I was going to get out of it.  I arrived a few minutes after 12pm to a long line of people.  The place is rather smallish but the food is absolutely wonderful.  I recognized one of the ladies from her Facebook profile and recognized the familiar bubbly infectious “social media” user personality.  I realized right then, regardless of the purpose/outcome, I was bound to have a good time.

I introduced myself to Marjorie and carried on conversation with her and two other people who joined.  After ordering my food and sitting down with my drink, a gentleman by the name of Jim sat down right across from me.   He was a cattle farmer and said he was adding poultry to his farming operation and wanted to get his organic product into food stores.  Well, little did he know that I recently returned from a visit to my brother-in-law from Arkansas who just received his NPIP Certification for his Microbiology/Chemistry Lab.  NPIP stands for National Poultry Improvement ProgramWhitbeck Laboratories is one of the few privately owned laboraties in the Nation which is authorized to conduct Salmonella testing and consult with chicken farmers backed by the standards required by the USDA.  He passed onto me two documents that he put together about his operation with his contact info and asked if I would pass them on.

After finishing my meal I decided to chat a little more to Katie from KIOS-FM and sitting next to her was a gal named Jennifer.  She just happened to be a CBS Home Real Estate representative.  After discussing my families plans to sell our home and purchase one closer to downtown Omaha, she offered to do whatever paperwork necessary to obtain approval from our bank to become an authorized agent for my banks Movers Advantage program.  I met several other fine outgoing people.

All of the attendees were folks I could imagine meeting up for coffee just to hang out, or play board games, watch movies, or go camping with them.  It was amazing how comfortable I was amongst strangers.  I guess I really shouldn’t be surprised because the crowd at this TweetUp are probably representative of the social culture that is fairly open-minded, flexible, positive people.  Conversation varied between personal / professional…typical “getting to know you” type discussion.  If you have never been to a TweetUp, I highly recommend it.  Just remember, you don’t have to be an expert user of Twitter to tweet or attend a TweetUp.  Everybody starts somewhere!

Have a great weekend everyone.  Follow me on Twitter @justasked.