Turning virtual friendships into real ones

I was in Brussels for the last two days, and very nice it was too. On Wednesday I was speaking at an event on the use of social media in a European context, called Butterfly Europe. A video of the event is online, and Europasionaria has written about it. I have a slightly different take on it to her, because although I am a card-carrying EU GirlGeek, my geographical position means that I have connected with these people via Twitter, blogs and so on but I’ve never met some of them. So my trip to Brussels was a great opportunity to get to know them in real life. And what a pleasure it was! From the EU Girl Geeks for lunch that day, to the many people at the Butterfly Europe event, to the commission’s internal Geek network on Thursday morning, I had a lovely time taking my online personal relationships offline. It’s too easy to caricaturise people who use digital media as lonely geeks sat behind their keyboards in their underpants, but speaking for myself, it has introduced me to a huge range of interesting people, some of whom I’m proud to call my friends.

Update, midday 20 August

Toute L’Europe [FR] and Les Euros du Village[FR] have also covered the Butterfly Europe Event

3 comments on “Turning virtual friendships into real ones”:

  1. I’ve read this great little post last week already, but now, after a week, I just remembered it (for a reason has to do with the meaning of this post).

    One thing that many of those EU people (and beyond) who haven’t got it as of yet are not realising is that those who are using these social tools already now are able to build up relationships that are not only quite strong in virtual life but that these relationships are able to provide, as you have said, even friendship and a good amount of real-life opportunities.

    I’ve noticed recently that by providing a social search and collaboration mechanism that is more dynamic than classical EU hierarchies, more time- and space-flexible than the good old reception (a Brussels classic), and way more personal than Google or Wikipedia (to take examples that most people understand), these tools are allowing a modest but visible intra-EU (intra-Brussels) change in habit and procedure that many will not realise until it has become a more manifest reality.

    And those who are in it right now will have shaped it. As friends or colleagues, online and offline. And they will know. 🙂

    1. That’s actually a point I made at the Butterfly Europe event – one of the questions we were asked to consider was whether social media would revolutionise European politics. I said if it did, it would be an internal revolution, changing fundamentally how we interact with the general public and how we use and circulate information in order to do that interaction (though it might have been less coherent than that on the day!).

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