Back when I lived in Chicago, I felt like I was at the center of the universe. I was working for a huge dot-com company and attended all the conferences I could. I met many people with many backgrounds. I couldn’t get on the ‘L’ train without running into somebody I knew.
In 2006 I moved to Sioux Falls and lost the ability to easily attend conferences and build relationships. Sioux Falls doesn’t exactly have the tech community Chicago does. As a result, I started focusing more on building relationships online through Twitter and Facebook. I spent many of the past few years alone in my office cranking out content while tweeting my thoughts on the weather and how excellent my gluten-free meal tasted today.
Many of the interactions I experienced online over the past few years have been negative. I’m not sure if anybody else is aware of this, but people on the Internet can be quite mean! Despite the mostly negative experiences with social media, it still felt like it was the right way to focus my time. I mean, this was the new social web, right?
Something was missing from my life though. My creative juices didn’t seem to be flowing the way they did years ago. I started feeling like everything I created was crap and that I had no business even trying anymore. I mean, people are out there inventing BitCoin and SnapChat. There’s no way I could ever create something that great, so why even bother anymore?
I started to get bitter. I grew an anti-social bubble around myself and decided that most people are mean. I decided to just keep to myself and get by on my own.
Twitter constantly buzzes with folks attending great conferences like SXSW and WordCamp. Whenever the time approached for a conference, I would explore the possibility of attending, but never purchase a ticket. I would convince myself it is just a waste of time. I mean, you can watch many of the presentations online for free, right? What’s the sense in driving or flying all the way to another city to see what you can see online?
I grew bored one weekend, and after seeing people tweet about WordCamp Minneapolis, I reluctantly bought a ticket. Even after the trip was officially planned, I considered backing out. My fiance had to really convince me that I should go, telling me “It will be good for you to get out!”.
I arrived at WordCamp Minneapolis in a crabby mood. Did I want to be around these people? I mean, they are all probably here trying to sell something right? Aren’t these the same jerks I see being mean on Twitter all day?
I sat down at the opening session, and Toby Cryns sat next to me. He smiled, introduced himself, shook my hand and wanted to know about who I am and what I do. Hmm, maybe the folks here aren’t so bad after all.
Over the next two days at WordCamp, this same scenario repeated itself. People like Helena Denley would randomly walk up and strike up a conversation with me. I spoke with a myriad of folks with different backgrounds about the sessions they attended. Each person had tremendous energy and possessed the creative mojo I remember having many moons ago. Creativity must be contagious.
The anti-social bubble I had built up over the years has now worn away. Nice people exist! They weren’t just trying to sell something or boast about how great they were.
I no longer feel like a reclusive ass who only creates things that nobody appreciates. I now sit in my office, with a phone filled with more contacts and a renewed creative energy. I have broken out of my bitter anti-social bubble and plan on attending all the conferences my wallet can afford.
Here are the lessons learned:
- Get out! Meet people! Explore!
- Don’t limit yourself to online communication.
- Don’t let the negative nitwits online convince you that all people are evil.
- Attend conferences and meetups even if you feel they are too simple or complex for you. You will still get something out of them.