By Caitlin Kelly
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I’ve met only a handful of you face to face, in Paris, New York and in London.
In the past week, I sat down face to face with five men I previously knew only through social media — one from a writers’ listserv and the other four all met only through Twitter.
The meetings, of course, were purely professional for me — and for them — held in daylight in busy public spaces.
Viv is a super-talented writer, stand-up comedian and new friend — who followed me on Twitter from her home in London and hired me to coach her.
Every meeting went well and I learned about a new-to-me person and their world.
One is an African-American man who runs a thriving national program recruiting new professionals into radio work. Reassured by having a mutual NPR connection, we spoke on the phone a few years ago. He was wary, cool. Not unfriendly, but cautious.
We only see one another once a year or so when he comes to New York, but this time — our third — felt like old friends, with hugs and happiness at our chance to spend some time together and catch up.
Another is a man from my hometown, Toronto, who worked for years in my field of journalism, focused on financial news — but who I met through our frequent participation in multiple Twitterchats on travel, like #CultureTrav, #TravelSkills and #TRLT. Retired, he now travels the world, often on someone else’s dime, promoting cruise ships or hotels.
Another, decades younger than I, is a fellow member of a writers’ listserv who divides his time between his native Australia, Latin America and New York. Like me, he’s worked for both a broadsheet newspaper (like The New York Times) and a tabloid (like the New York Daily News.)
This amazing conference, Fireside, came to me through an email from a stranger — one of the best experiences of 2018
I met four of them in one day; the final one works in public relations in New York City, a field I hope to find more work in as a strategist.
And the fifth is a Florida man my age working on innovative ways to re-invigorate journalism; we met this week for coffee in my town while he and his wife were visiting.
Many people, I realize, are much happier remaining forever behind the screen, anonymous and safe, already too busy or overworked to add more to their plate.
As someone wholly self-employed, such enhanced and deeper connections can also lead me to paid work and new opportunities — a good personal meeting builds trust. My goal with social media is to connect intellectually, emotionally and professionally.
For me, social media is social, not just a place to scream and shout and rave.
I enjoy putting a face and character to a name, even if the person isn’t quite what I expected or would later consider as a close friend.
It does require a spirit of adventure and an open-ness to disappointment/delight. But working alone at home since 2006 can leave me lonely and isolated otherwise.