Facebook: More Tales of Chicken Soup for the Social Soul

More evidence of chicken soup for the social , and I’d have to add spiritual, soul.  This message was posted today by by Nitin Naresh of the Global Concern Foundation.  On April 13, it was his birthday.  He lives in New Delhi, India. He wrote:

I really feel out of this world today, I never knew that I am so lucky to have such wonderful well wishers and friends who love me so much.

I got more than 987 messages for my birthday wishes today from all my group members & Friends.

I Today feel one of the richest person of this world, even richer than Bill Gates to have such lovely and dear friends and well wishers around me.

with warm regards

Nitin Naresh

I met Nitin, if the word “met” even applies, on Facebook.    I quote him a lot, repost his ideas.   He’s smart, and he’s obviously a good guy–a philanthropist and activist in his early twenties.   Many of his generation–the Millennials–are like that.    Historians who study “turnings”–generational swaths of time–look for patterns that repeat themselves with each new cohort.  Many compare Millennials with the civic-minded G.I. Generation, today’s great-grandparents.   But the G. I. generation didn’t have the Internet, and its members didn’t perceive themselves to be citizens of the world.  Nitin lives in New Delhi, but he can “converse” with anyone anywhere.  I’m not surprised that he was flooded with good wishes.  He gives. What goes around comes around.

The Millennials are inheriting a tough world.  People like Nitin are rising to meet the challenge.   They don’t need a book about consequential strangers.  They talk to anyone and everyone and realize that every conversation counts.   They believe in sharing.  It gives me hope.

Facebook: Chicken Soup for the Social Soul

The wonder of Facebook is that you can have a thought, share it, and get feedback from the most remote corners of your world, even from strangers who skirt the periphery of your world.

I think about such things every day, among other reasons because I traffic in relationships, professionally and personally.  I speak to strangers all the time. During the year, I live in five different homes (counting my same-time-next-year rental in a summer community). I need consequential strangers to live the way I do–often, far away from my most beloved family members and friends. Continue Reading »

After “Audacity,” Now What? My State-of-the-Blog Address

My confession about falling down the “rabbit hole” of social media–The Audacity of Hype–is this week’s “Soapbox” essay in Publisher’s Weekly.  The piece has garnered quite a few comments.  One tweeter described it as:  “Moving account of hopes/fears of writer plugging her book on social media (Consequential Strangers).”  I’ve also received several emails and Facebook messages and questions from other writers. And PW printed a letter from someone in the real estate business for whom the piece also resonated:

I thought I was a Real Estate Broker, but the last few years it’s been all about desk top publishing/marketing and advertising via social networking. Makes “hauling & hoping” not look so bad after all!

Continue Reading »

CS as a Secret Weapon

Thanks to career expert and blogger Marci Alboher.  She posted a link on Facebook to a Wall Street Journal piece, An Old-School Social Network, which chronicles the “Wednesday 10,” a group of men, then in their twenties, who convened their first meeting in 1957:

“The Wednesday 10 comprised, at various points, more than 20 men; the goal was a number small enough to maintain intimacy yet large enough to ensure that at least 10 members would show up for each of the monthly Wednesday-night meetings. No more than two representatives of any one industry were permitted. The idea was to combat insularity, to keep the men connected to people and events outside their own professions.” Continue Reading »

Foreverism: The Baby Whisperer Lives On

A few days ago, I received an email reminding me that Tracy Hogg’s birthday is August 8th.  That email was a manifestation of  what trend-watcher Reinier Evans calls foreverism:   “…countless individuals are building online profiles and relationships that are potentially ‘forever’…”

I can’t remember the name of the free site that I signed up with several years ago, but thanks to their reliable emails I never have to forget anyone’s birthday, not even my consequential strangers’.  (Ironically, in parsing the difference between CS and good friends, I often remark that a CS doesn’t get insulted when you forget her birthday! So much for birthdays as a yardstick. )

The trouble is, the birthday reminders keep coming, even after the person is no longer here to celebrate.  But maybe that’s not such a bad thing. Tracy–the Baby Whisperer–whose work and wisdom filled three books, succumbed to esophageal cancer at the untimely and unfair age of 44 (just as we were about to write a fourth book together).  The email was like some sort of digital yahrzeit candle, making me feel the loss and reflect on our five-year collaboration.  (I suspect as more of us rely on social media to keep in touch, online memorials will take numerous forms and become more common.  For example, read Adam Cohen’s touching New York Times editorial, “A New Kind of Memorial for the Internet Age.”)

Tracy and I had a close–and complex– relationship, and yet, we never went beyond consequential stranger territory.  We were twenty years apart and from different worlds.  Our paths would never have crossed–she the Yorkshire lass with the hardscrabble life, me the privileged New Yorker.  And yet, I was able to capture her on paper, so accurately that she cried when she read the first page I wrote in her voice. Tracy and I would never have spent the holidays together, but we shared a great deal of time and conversation.   She was the star nanny; I was her voice.  We needed each other.  I was her “shrink”–I asked many personal questions that she loved to answer–and she my family baby whisperer.  I remember fondly how Tracy talked my daughter through the occasional rough spots with her new baby–my first grandson.

tracy-and-girlsI wish Tracy could have gotten to know my other two grandsons. I wish she could have watched her own two daughters grow up. I wish I could talk with her about consequential strangers–she would have loved the concept.  And I wish that Tracy– who was firm with parents but never mean, wise but never a know-it-all–had lived to eclipse those stern television nannies who rushed in to fill the void.  (At least, viewers in the U.K. got to see her on the Discovery Health network.)  But most of all, I wish she could see that her dream, of building a community of “mums” who would give each other support, has come true in ways she couldn’t have imagined in 2002.   Her website lives on and, more recently, her fans created a group on  Facebook, as one of the founders explained, “so we’d have a place to go to when the Baby Whisperer site is down.”  This, too, is an example of foreverism:  Tracy will be eternally alive in those mothers hearts as they trade her tips and use her techniques.

Tracy, we all miss you.  Happy birthday forever.

Wanna Know Who Your CS Are?

Check out your email address book or Facebook “friends.”  Depending on the total number, ten, twenty, at most thirty are close or somewhat close friends; the rest, in varying degrees, are consequential strangers.

They’re not “friends”–they’re consequential strangers

Just read a great article in Business Week, “What’s a Friend Worth” by Stephen Baker.  In a graphic use to illustrate the piece, quotation marks appear around the word friend, because most of our Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter contacts are relations that don’t quite qualifyas friends. They’re consequential strangers.  Some of them are merely blips on the social radar.  Others are “anchored” to a particular place or activity.  And a few, such as a long-time business associate or a trusted advisor, skirt the periphery of  friend territory.  We’ve always had peripheral people in our lives, but  now that we’re “swimming in information,” as Baker puts it, consequential strangers are more important than ever–and technology allows us to keep track of them.  The fact is, each of us has a unique “social convoy”–an entourage of people we collect as we make our way through life.  While family and good friends often go the distance, consequential strangers tend to be shorter-term recruits, brought on board for a specific reason. When you hit an unexpected detour–and need information, clarification, or a connection–they’re the ones most likely to help you find an alternate route.