In the past two nights I have tried something new. I went to what could be called functions. Each completely different in nature than the other, but the ends are just the same.
Last night I wandered into a world that was similar to the one I live in…only not really. This new, undiscovered (at least for me) world mirrored mine. It had denizens, of course. And along with these people, as any group of people would attest, came the politics and divisions; the haves and have-nots; the initiated and the newbies. But yet it was still something I’ve never experienced before: I was at an event. Not just any social soiree, but a meet-up. That’s what the kids are calling it these days…meet-ups. And this meet-up was a technology meet-up.
Now, I’m no technological determinist, or even a techie for that matter. Yes, it’s true, I enjoy the technological advancements we’ve made in consumer electronics, health care and such, but I’ve never been one to drool over some written code. That stuff is way over my head. This audience, these congregants in the temple of technodom, are some of the most passionate and interesting people and they feed on acronyms like API and RSS. Only I don’t understand them (the acronyms or the people).
I sat through 6 presentations about Twitter applications. Two were interesting, two weren’t and two utterly confused me. But the bigger picture wasn’t these companies, it was the people sitting around me; this new society. This was also supposed to be a networking event, but for some reason I couldn’t really talk to anyone. The only person I spoke with was a reporter whom I’ve gotten to know through Twitter.
We sat next to each other and while she and I clearly seemed to be fish out of water, we both saw the bigger picture and acknowledged that, at some level, we are both entrenched in this society. We made fun of how the organization’s (very loose use of the term) leadership passed the, um, Macbook (of which there was a swearing in ceremony using said Macbook as a defacto Bible) to the next crop of leadership. But yet there we were. Sitting in our seats, paying attention and trying to understand it all. As we were walking through the dungeony side streets between 11th and 9th Aves back to the L, it dawned on me that these events are happening all across the world because of technology and that in order to understand this strange universe, we need to participate. We need to learn. We need to collaborate. This first function was an eye opener, from the personal side to the business side and for me, at this point in my life, maybe the most important; the philosophical side. Irony would have it that the following night’s event would be another exercize in learning how all this works.
Tonight I went to a book party. A reporter that I have helped in the past wrote a book (called The Numerati) about how all the data we leave behind in our wake can be used for to predict many areas of our lives and manipulate our behavior; from politics to consumerism to working to even love. This was billed as a networking event for communications people with discounted booze and free appetizers. It was sponsored by MediaBistro company whose sole purpose of being is to connect people to each other in the field of communications (tv, radio, internet, film, artists, book publishing, etc). So naturally, after the high of last night’s revelation, I figured I would go and investigate.
This event made me feel like a grown up for the first time in a while. When you’re unemployed and have no major responsibilities, it’s easy to forget that you are, in fact, a real person with value. I started the evening talking with the author’s wife and son, who are both exceptionally intelligent and relaxed individuals. Talking with them and with the other folks I met, I felt at ease. I won’t say that I worked the room, but I did talk to quite a few people who, if they were at the previous function, I would definitely not have.
I’m a talker. I enjoy communicating, and I think that is one reason why my friends keep me around. They figure the odds of me saying something humorous, profound or down-right stupid are pretty high because of my locquaciousness. However, when you put me in a group of strangers, it takes a little while for me to warm up. This is probably why a lot of people drink. But tonight I learned that people are engaging and communicating in ways that are both primal and new. We’re taking what we learned over thousands of years of evolution and mimicking it through a new avenue. We’re using technology to communicate better, more succinctly, with more impact. But we’re also volleying these conversations between online tools, like Twitter and Facebook, to set up offline connections.
These networking events are important in today’s weakened economy. They help us connect with new ideas on how to make our lives, all our lives — even us newbies — even better. My goal this year is to be more social outside of my normal network and learn as much as I can. I will share and redistribute knowledge that I’ve learned. One day, it will all come back.