So, I'm reading this book by Frank Rose called The Art of Immersion: How the digital generation is remaking Hollywood, Madison Avenue, and the way we tell stories. It was recommended to me by the professor teaching the class for which I'll be a TA next semester, Writing for New Media. (Am I qualified to TA this? Well, I have a blog, and I tweet—neither terribly well. Maybe I can be an object lesson.)
Anyway. I got to this part where he quotes a panelist at a 2009 MIT conference called "Futures of Entertainment" who said "Social media is powered by empathy." The comment garnered a certain amount of skepticism. Of course, the way people mouth off and flame (and not in the good way) online may make you question that statement. But, as Rose says later, "to blame rudeness on the Internet is like blaming highways for road rage."
Case in point. (Yes, I do have a point. Why do you ask?) This past weekend I went out for dinner with a New Yorker visiting Vancouver for work. We went to a place in Gastown called Café Nuba—and if you live in Vancouver or are coming to visit, they have some of the best Lebanese food I've ever eaten. Their falafel were fantastic, and the red lentil soup was perfect on a rainy night.
I didn't know her before this past weekend. A mutual friend put us in touch, and we made plans from there. She was highly amused by one thing, though. Our mutual friend? I've never met him in person, either. We became acquainted through blogging and then, of course, eventually connected on Facebook. (Doesn't everyone? Don't get me started on that.) As I went home, I thought what a funny world it is, that two complete strangers from opposite ends of the continent can somehow manage to sit down in the same room and share some dinner and become a little less strange.
I'm still a little wowed by the connections we're able to make online. I know it's made a difference in my career and in my friendships, and I've met people I never would have had the opportunity to know before. If that isn't empathy at work, I don't know what is.
How has it affected your connections?