There is a lot of stuff written in the press, even the more serious end of the market, doubting the value of social networking and highlighting the
paper electron-thin relationships that it supports.
And I’ll not deny that there’s a whole of truth in many of those arguments and articles.
Yet when I think about it, the modern workplace (at least mine) quite often reflects the kind of social networking relationships that are so easily criticised. Working as part of international teams, with people spread over two or three continents at a time, we don’t always see a lot of each other. While we might talk regularly on the phone, over the last ten years or so I’ve worked with off-shore developers and designers who I’ve never actually met, or only met six or twelve months into a project. Yet these relationships are meaningful ... we verbally celebrate each other’s marriages, births, holidays, and mark the sadder occasions too.
Sounds a bit like the local blogging scene? I’ve exchanged comments and emails with quite a few folk, and am aware that some must live within a quarter a mile of me. In fact, one even works in the same building. But I’ve only ever met one or two.
So it was fun this afternoon to step out of the security and anonymity of the Alan in Belfast buddy icon, and meet up with some folk in the Belfast Flickr group, who Red Mum had organised to gather in Custom House Square at 2pm.
Would we recognise each other? Of course. The ones carrying cameras instead of skateboards. Finally an excuse to get inside St Anne’s Cathedral to see the recently installed spike from the inside.
(In case you’ve only ever seen it from the outside, it doesn’t go all the way down to the ground. Instead, it’s stops just a few metres underneath the roof ... an impossibly balanced spike resting in the middle of a glass window.)
Now the area directly under the spire may have been cordoned off, but with a big of scurrying around, we got the shots we wanted! Jett - must have helped that the Cathedral staff were fans of Just of Laughs!
While skateboarding became trendy again a few years ago, parkour is what the fit guys are doing around Belfast. Incredibly fit and strong, with gymnast-like moves, but no lycra in sight, these guys can launch themselves backwards off the nearest piece of street furniture in Writers' Square, landing securely (nearly) every time.
So social networking hit real life this afternoon. And it was good to put faces to buddy icons, real names to blog titles, and real accents and stories to the written words and pictures that get published on the internet. Maybe next time we’re wandering around Belfast or Dublin, we’ll recognise each other, and stop to say Hi! And maybe we’ll be more likely to meet up again and do a bit more social networking without hiding behind keyboards and screens. (Just cameras.)