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Ordinary People Taking Action
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When I reflect on the impact of my network of friends and colleagues, I see an amazing tangle of connections that has led to outcomes no one could ever predict. Take my friend, Tony, for example. Tony and I met in junior high and attended high school and college together. I am not sure we saw each other as friends at the time, although we had overlapping friendships. It’s not that we didn’t like each other – we just never really knew each other.
Several years later, a post I made on Facebook motivated Tony to submit his resume for a job. Through our connection, he was invited for an interview and today, over seven years later, Tony is still with that same company. For the longest time, people who met Tony and I at work thought we were great, life-long friends. Although that wasn’t the case, it would be accurate to say that through the years, we became friends.
Amy is my neighbor and I reached out to her over eight years ago to build me a website. I then referred her to my friend Kathy, whose website she also built. Several years later, I hired Amy again for support with an internal website at a non-profit I worked for. And, most recently, I hired Amy to design and build my current website. Through the years, people have assumed because we are neighbors and have worked together several times that we are great friends. And, as with Tony, I would say that through working together, we have become friends.
The world is an interesting place when it comes to people we know – and don’t know – and kind of know.
Recently, I was talking to a friend about building connections via social media. We were discussing that maintaining a presence on social media can be almost a full-time job. We used to talk about how much we both had a love-hate relationship with social media. We’d go through periods where we would post pictures of events from our lives, make updates and “like” our friends’ posts. After a while, the social media aspect became just too much – too much comparison, too much “keeping up”. So, we would take breaks. Then come back. Then a break. Then back.
I told her I have spent the last month on social media and have formed a newfound love and enjoyment for it. Don’t get me wrong, I still dislike the “keeping up with the jones” aspect; but what I have learned to really appreciate is the ability to connect with people – personally – about professional things that interest and excite me. I am finding that my network of people is increasing exponentially and that the perspectives I’m gaining exposure to are valuable – and interesting. My friend told me those aren’t connections, those are “weak links”. Maybe my friend is right – maybe she isn’t.
What I have found on social media is a lot of stories like the ones I shared about Tony and Amy. Stories in which I have connected people to opportunities. Stories in which people have connected me to opportunities. It’s a beautiful world out in social media land – when we let it be.
Here are some additional things that I have learned:
While I value my close groups – I also value my “weak links” as my friend referred to them. Maybe it’s the weak links that we need so that we can be allowed grow, change, develop and maintain the strongest connections we don’t even know about yet.
Randomly, I was talking to a friend about the topic of this entry, and she referred me to a book called The Defining Decade, by Meg Jay, PhD. The book has a chapter titled “Weak Ties”. The chapter makes almost this exact point and has a phenomenal quote, “Weak Ties are like bridges you cannot see all the way across, so there is no telling where they might lead.”