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Connecting with the Human Side of Social Media

Connecting with the Human Side of Social Media

Online communities can foster meaningful relationships offline, too.

Carolyn Benson singing at Bliss
Food collected for Island Harvest
TweetGirls @MissBeckala, @LovelyLu, @SueanneShirzay, @Truffuls, @ChicMom and @TwittyWoman
A few of the students from Kathy Whelan's Class

No matter how you celebrate Thanksgiving, the day will involve some sort of giving thanks. Thanks for family, for health, for the food on the table. Thanks for the blessings of the year or just for being alive.

One of the things many are thankful for are the opportunities that arise through social media. Not just for the job opportunities that may arise, but for the virtual communities that become an extension of family.

“I am thankful for social media because of the many life long friends I have made,” said Becky Kopprasch, a.k.a. @MissBeckala on Twitter. She has had an incredibly trying year, one that would keep anyone down, but through the online community she built through Twitter, Facebook and her blog, she became a virtual dynamo.

Kopprasch’s back story may be unique, but her social media experience is common. Virtual communities are tight knit, giving people the opportunity to connect to those that they would not be able to meet in conventional ways.

Mary-Jo Peritore, the East Setauket mom behind MerCurios, said she has been able to spread brand awareness and connect with her customers on a personal level through Twitter.

“They know what’s happening with MerCurios, me personally and the daily goings on with my family and especially my four-year-old son, Gabriel,” said Peritore (a.k.a. @MerCuriosJewels). “Twitter also keeps me on the pulse of what’s happening NOW which is important in a society where everything is available at your fingertips. With Twitter I never miss a beat.”

In Peritore’s experience, she is thankful that social media has enabled her to close another gap – the distance gap.

“Facebook is a wonderful tool that keeps me connected to family that I don’t see or speak to nearly as often as I would like,” she said. “It keeps me in the loop as to what’s happening and I don’t feel so far away or disconnected. Facebook closes the gap on distance.”

Carolyn Benson of East Setauket knows how useful Facebook is for communicating, too. A popular singer at Bliss on Sunday evenings, Benson didn’t have a following when she started out a few years ago in what she calls her “mid-life career.”

“Facebook has allowed me an opportunity to ‘advertise’ where I am going to be singing on a given weekend without the huge costs of running a print ad,” Benson said. “Another great aspect of FB that I am thankful for is it also allows me to get to know these wonderful people who come to see me every week. I have made some great new friends and strengthened many old friendships, too.”

Virtual communities can span the world, but what happens when your virtual world turns up neighbors? You host a “Tweetup.”

A Tweetup is an offline gathering of those in your community. They are usually social in nature and can involve a few or many. When @TwittyWoman, @LovelyLu, @SueanneShirzay, @MissBeckala and @Truffuls found out they were all on the island, they had a Tweet Girls gathering. It was the beginning of a very close friendship.

Tweetups can also provide ways for people to give back to their communities.  #LITweetup Helps is a popular Long Island hashtag (the hashtag ‘#’ is a way to keep track of a conversation on Twitter) utilized by a group of people online who met offline for the first time over a year ago. Although it started off as a social gathering, it quickly evolved into an active community service group. In October, they hosted an island wide food drive to benefit Island Harvest.

Lily Zajc (@DixieLil) of Setauket gladly joined the effort when her “tweeps” informed her of the food drive.

“Participating in Island Harvest’s food drive gave me a chance to help out the growing number of Long Islanders in need, because of dire economic times,” Zajc said. “Since losing my job, I related to the increasing number of unemployed L.I.’ers who must now face some challenges in feeding their families.”

Along with Zajc and other adults from the area, Kathy Whelan’s seventh grade religion class from St. James Church in Setauket participated too, collecting an astonishing 303 pounds of food. Through a simple email, she accepted the invitation. “The children went outside of their comfort zone and really came through,” Whelan said.

“I’m thankful that LITweetup brought together an amazing, eclectic group of people that share ideas and knowledge,” said Dani Muccio, who as @Dani3boyz went on to become the Islanders’ social media coordinator because of her online presence supporting the Islanders. “It’s helped us all grow socially and professionally and, in turn, inspired us to delve into other ventures with each other’s support.”

Muccio cited NHLtweetup, inspired by LITweetup, as “a way for hockey fans to get out from behind their keyboards and network in real life.”

“That’s a gift that keeps on giving as I get to watch real-life bonds grow between people that may have not met otherwise,” Muccio said.

I am so grateful for all of the incredible people I have met over the years thanks to social media, so on this day of gobble gobble, I prefer to say Tweet Tweet!

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