On Being Social

This past year I joined Toastmasters and it's been an amazing experience. I never expected to love it as much as I do. Last night I gave my third speech and because the topic was social media I thought I would share it with you here.

Keep in mind that it is written as a speech, so just imagine you are in a room listening to me give it as you read it :)

Social media and technology get a bad rap.

“It’s a waste of time”

“People don’t have real conversations any more”

“In my day this…."   

"In my day that…”

Have you ever heard any of those things? Have you ever SAID any of those things?

Today, fellow Toastmasters, I’m going to talk to you about why social media is more than just taking Buzzfeed quizzes and sharing pictures of your lunch. It can actually be incredibly connecting and instead of people no longer being social and forming “genuine” relationships, they’re actually just doing what we’ve always done in a new and often more effective way. After this speech I hope you will have a new appreciation for all the amazing opportunities to find friendships and community online.

Let me start with a story. As I’m sure many of you in this room know, becoming a mother can be really lonely. You’re never alone… but you’re always alone.

Depending on your baby…. or babies…. You may feel like it’s really difficult to leave the house, or maybe you’re just too tired to leave the house after being up all night with a baby…. or babies…

When I was pregnant with my twins I discovered the beauty of Twitter. When I was at home stuck under a baby… (or babies…) I could still find someone to talk to.

I could find someone to talk to in the middle of the day when everyone else I knew was at work, and I could find someone to talk to in the middle of the night when everyone else I knew was asleep. Did you know there is actually a hashtag for moms who are looking to find other moms who are tired and sleep deprived and looking for someone to talk to? #zombiemoms

Not only do new moms have a place to go to escape the loneliness of new motherhood, they have a place to go to to ask questions when they’re nervous or insecure, to share funny stories with people who will understand what they’re going through, and complain to people they know have been there too.

While this is an example of being a new mom, the examples of people who are otherwise isolated who can find a community are endless. People who feel too bullied to leave home, people who are sick and can’t get out of the house, people who just have a hard time in social situations.

Social media helps people who feel isolated find community.

What about those who aren’t isolated by situation, but by discomfort? I’m sure you’ve all seen people who are on their mobile devices at parties or at a restaurant.

I’m in no way suggesting that that’s a great thing to do, but I do want you to consider that a lot of the people who are doing that are doing it as a crutch. They’re uncomfortable in social situations and for lack of knowing what to say or how to interact. They’re using their technology to escape. They would have been the same people reading a book in the corner during a Christmas party or hiding in the basement watching TV 20 or 30 years ago.

Access to technology and social media provide safe places for people who are uncomfortable in big groups to still have social interactions. 

There are articles that I see going round fairly frequently that intrigue me. They’re all called something along the lines of Why is it so hard to make friends after 30?

It's harder to make friends once you’ve left school, but we all still need to be able to make new friends. The thing is, we’re also pickier about who we’re friends with the older we get – aren’t we? We want to feel like we have something in common with people other than their locker is next to yours.

You can find your community online. You can find the people who like to talk about what you like to talk about.

I have a friend whose daughter was born with a very rare disease. She’s found a group of parents online who also have kids with the same disease online where she can talk openly and honestly with people who understand what she’s going through. The disease is so rare that there are only dozens in this group from all around the world - before social media she wouldn't have been able to have these kinds of discussions.

My husband loves online poker. He’s found a community of people who like to talk about poker and who take it as seriously as he does and we’ve even been on vacations with people he’s met through that community.

I have met other female business owners who not only understand what it means to run a business from home while raising a family, but who also live in Ottawa. Not only are they in my city, they're in my suburb. I met almost all of them online. There are three of them in the room right now.

Social media can help you find your tribe. 

There is no doubt that people spend more time on their technology wasting time than they probably should – many of us are guilty of that.

But when it comes to technology making people less social while they hide behind screens all the time? I can’t disagree more.

Next time you see someone with their face in their phone – consider that they might be having a conversation with someone in a space that feels safer and more comfortable to them than the one that they’re actually physically in.

Next time someone talks to you about Facebook, don’t just think about it as a place that people go to waste time and play pretend farming games but as a place they’ve found safe places to talk about the things that are meaningful to them.

Because of social media I have the biggest group of friends that I see in person on a regular basis than I’ve ever had it my life.

Because of social media I never need to feel alone and I know I can always find someone to help me when I need it.

Social media could help you be more social too.