Social Media has enhanced my conference experiences and learning. It seems pretty clear that would be the case. Before social media I attended lots of educational conferences and even some fun conventions (Star Trek and Comic). I attended as an individual, read the program after arrival and tried my best to make the most of it. I left with a bag of notes and a few contacts; but those connections tended to fade away as snail mail and later e-mail were the only means of real continued connection and conversation.
Things are different now. I plan conference sessions collaboratively through social media with people I rarely meet face to face. I review the conference program online weeks before attending, follow tweets and blogs about the sessions and even participate in surveys that presenters send out to help them develop relevant sessions. I am well prepared before I arrive to find the sessions and people that will meet my needs and expectations. I have contacts in place and meet some for the first time in person. I leave with links to continue learning, and a more fine tuned, fleshed out learning network.
My life before social media was first a face to face one that had to adapt to a new tools and ways of connecting. Many in my generation found we needed the face to face contact so we planned meet-ups and tweet-ups to make the connections more ‘real’ and honestly more fun. There was speculation the generation of my children would not need these face to face connections as much of us older folks. But in watching my children I am finding that is not the case.
I remember when I went to my first tweet-up years ago. I was told by my children that (1) it was not safe to meet people I met online and (2) you did not need to meet people to really know them. Things have changed…
They are active in a variety of online communities. Relationships are built and learning and fun occurs. But in the last couple of years I am noticing an increase in the number of meet-ups that are occurring at conventions (anime, comic, Dr. Who and gaming) and between conventions. They are realizing the benefit of being connected through social media but also that face to face interaction just deepens these connections, and increases the fun and learning. A balance has been reached social media and face to face connections have been blended to provide deep, meaningful connections and relationships that would not have occurred through either alone.