It’s a small world after all, it’s a small world after all!
When I was young, my parents took my sisters and I to Disney World many, many times. You would think driving with three small girls all the way from Shaker Heights, Ohio, was enough to prove my parents were saints. But no! We we would often insist on subjecting them to what I can only imagine is the greatest torture for any human being over the age of 11: the It’s a Small World ride. And not only did we have to go on this ride every year, but we often went multiple times…in a row. Also, I’m quite confident we would sing the song over and over for the rest of the trip. Yeah, we were great kids.
As I’ve grown up, I’ve realized how many amazing things my parents have done for me over the years (yes, the Disney World example is a silly one). But beyond the simple actions themselves, it’s astounding how they never failed to make it seem as though it was something any parent would do. Because over the years, if nothing else, I have learned one thing: there are many things my parents would do in a heartbeat that many others would not. And for that reason, I count myself among the luckiest on Earth. I admit, sometimes I forget that I can count on them for anything, but the world never seems to let me forget for long. Every now and then a day comes along to remind me to count my blessings. Today happened to be one of those days.
Why am I sharing this with you? Because I think that social media is a tool which allows each and every one of us to find people who will go the extra mile. This may seem like a stretch, but bear with me. I very recently started to use Twitter as a serious, network-building tool. Eager to follow the “right people,” I sought advice from some folks I knew in real life. My network grows each day; slowly, sure, but steadily enough for me. And almost each day I get a not-so-subtle reminder that there are many people in this world willing do more than you might expect. Much like I can take for granted how far my parents are willing to go to support me, it’s easy to take for granted how helpful perfect strangers can be, how seemingly small gestures can mean so much and how lucky we all are to be able to connect in today’s world.
In my few short weeks on Twitter, I have been lucky enough to get some kind words from strangers that were probably easy for them to say, but meant a great deal to me. Two such examples have really made a distinct impression on me.
After a few interactions on Twitter (an @ reply here, a Retweet there), Mark Schaefer sent me a private message encouraging me to send him an e-mail if I wanted more advice about job-hunting and blogging. I was pretty taken aback by this in and of itself. He doesn’t even really know me! When I sent him that e-mail, I half assumed if I got a response it wouldn’t be terribly helpful. I just knew I had to try. When I got his reply, I was floored. He not only offered to let me write a guest post for his (amazing) blog, but also offered to pass my resume along to a friend he thought would be interested in me. I’ve been lucky to have a professor who has been a great mentor and self-proclaimed agent for me, but I took four class with him over two years! This was someone who has never met me in person. And this was a gesture which would take little effort on his part, but could mean a great job opportunity for this new graduate.
Not too long after this happened, I realized I was going to need to find a place to stay in Chicago for the last two weeks in August. My internship is scheduled to end two weeks after my current lease, and I needed a place to crash. I Tweeted about my predicament, hoping someone following me would have some suggestions or advice. Sydney Owen did me one better. After someone suggested Sydney and a few other locals, I sent out a message asking if they had any tips for finding housing or knew anyone in need of a house sitter. Sydeny almost instantly replied that I could crash at her place. For two weeks. This was my first interaction with her. It was a few words for her, but to me it meant the possibility of a warm bed for two weeks.
While networking is not a new concept, using social media for that purpose is. I have fallen head-over-heels in love with social media because of the great opportunity it gives each and every one of us to connect. I have already found numerous connections that I would have never found without Twitter or Facebook or LinkedIn. It’s who you know that matters (isn’t that what they say?) and it’s becoming easier to get to know the “right people.” It’s becoming easier to build a community of people willing to go an extra mile and make a small gesture that will rock your world. Social media allows us to easily find those who may cross our paths, but we would never know it otherwise.
In essence, social media turns the big, scary world into a collection of open, welcoming communities that can (and will) help us. And I’ve learned that all you really need to do to become part of them is to reach out, jump in and share! I guess all those Disney World rides stuck with me after all these years…because it’s a small world after all, it’s a small world after all!