Last Thursday, I attended “Breakfast with Jeff Pulver (and friends)”. Jeff is best known as the co-founder of VoIP provider Vonage. He classifies himself as a Technology Anthropologist and now spends part of his time organizing breakfasts in different cities as a way to bring together people who may have connected online but have never met face-to-face.
To begin, Jeff spoke a little about what he’s currently observing in the world of online communications. To him, it is painfully evident that the way in which we interact with others has changed. People are communicating because of online availability rather than by the arbitray presence of a telephone.
Jeff made a point I found particularly interesting:
There is now an entire generation growing up digitally who – because it’s so easy to communicate online – won’t have the opportunity to develop people skills the way individuals did before the Internet and will, consequently, find it challenging to communicate in person.
(Does this mean that the same way there was a shortage of Internet-savvy individuals during the tech boom, there will be, at some point, a shortage of proficiently personable people?)
Next, Jeff had each of us go around the room and introduce who were were and a tagline to describe ourselves (my tagline was, of course, was “stumbling my way through life in our nation’s capital”). Then, we were let loose to network our hearts away. We were each given a blank name tag and small sticky squares. The small squares were so we could “tag” others based on the information they gave us during the conversation we were to have.
The whole thing (the name tag with our name and tagline and the name tag left open for others’ comments) is referred to by Jeff as a “Personal Social Networking Toolkit”. He came up with the idea as a way to help each of us define who were are, start a conversation with others, and get feedback on how we’re being understood.
– My tagline was a shortened version of the tagline I use here on this blog – “A twentysomething Social Media professional stumbling her way through life in our nation’s capital”. This is how I define myself.
– I mentioned in my introduction to the room that I use this tagline because I recently relocated to DC and am doing my best to catalog my time here. This later helped start a conversation with others as they asked me where I moved from, how long I had been in DC, etc.
– Some of the tags I received on my badge: “Gets news 1st @ Twitter”, “friendly”, “intellectual”, “i am content” (a double entendre – being happy and providing information), “social medium” (ie a provider of social media). These are the thing that people take away from meeting me. (Not a bad list in my opinion – that is EXACTLY what I would hope to project at a professional social media networking event.)
I really consider the event a huge success – I was indeed able to meet those I had already connected with online, get to know other DC Social Media influentials, and have an opportunity to think about the role of social media in personal relationships (post to come on that particular subject).
Pictures from the event can be found here.