How do you connect to people online?

At the beginning of this month D’Arcy Norman posted this question on his blog:

“How do you connect to people online?”

His intention is to collect responses to this question which will then be published in a narrative on the project website on November 30th.

I happened upon this project through Martin Weller’s response which he posted on his blog last week.

Obviously this has prompted me to think about how I connect to people online. My first thought was about the tools I use; Twitter, Facebook, blogs (WordPress and Tumblr), delicious and Flickr to name but a few. Each of these tools I use in a slightly different way and as such make slightly different connections through them.

  • There are those I keep strictly personal, such as Facebook, where I only make connections with people I know in person. Whenever I talk to Facebook sceptics about why I need to use an online tool to keep in touch with my friends I say this; it’s to keep up with the day to day activities in the lives of those people who I don’t see regularly. I find it helps me maintain a stronger connection to people I have been close to at different stages of my life and I know without it I probably wouldn’t have been able to connect with in such a way.
  • Then there are those which I use for a more professional purpose, such as Twitter, where I would say 90% of the people I connect with I have never met. The majority of my network are librarians and I use it as a place to learn and share ideas. This is not to say that part of the conversation is not personal. Making professional connections through a tool like Twitter I believe allows you greater opportunity to show your character and share personal experiences. It allows you to create new layers of connection with people who you may work or collaborate with in the future.

When I think on it I have been making connections in this way for nearly ten years. I started out in 2000 with an MSN group that I created for my friends at school as a place to talk about film. Around this time I also had a blog on diary-x and have maintained one ever since. Through both of these tools I formed stronger connections to people I knew in person but also with friends I met online, a couple of whom I am still in touch with today via Facebook. The point I am trying to make with this trip down memory lane is this: although the tools change, the types of connection remain the same.

I’ve yet to watch all of the responses currently posted on the website but from those I’ve seen so far this response from AJ Williams is my favourite: