Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Power of Mobile (and Social): Makes a Happy Coincidence

I just got back from attending the most amazing IBM Redbooks social media residency on Mobile Enterprise, where I spent a week face-to-face with colleagues from across IBM to discuss mobile computing, and an interesting thing happened on my way home today.

I got to the airport well before my boarding time, so I had some time to kill. I found a comfortable place to sit near my gate, and pulled out my smartphone to check emails, read news - catch up with the rest of my life, basically. I looked at Facebook to see what my friends were doing, and noticed that an old acquaintance, Margaret, who I hadn't seen in a while, posted an update to her wall saying that she would be in Pittsburgh (where I was heading) and asked if any of her friends there would like to meet up and hang out while she was in town. 

As I read it, I admitted to myself with a pinch of regret that I had lost touch with this person. I didn't even know that she moved away from Pittsburgh. Several years ago, we studied dance together, and even performed in the same troupe together. She was kind, fun to be around, and had a tall graceful figure that I envied. Dance was a big part of my life at the time, and I shared a significant bond with my dance classmates. I have since lapsed from dance to focus on other pursuits, but I miss those days. While I sat there and considered making a reply, and as boarding time drew near, a tall graceful woman sat down right next to me. It was her! We were on the same flight back to Pittsburgh.

Of course, we had a nice chat to catch up, and here I am, marveling at the coincidence - all made possible by the ubiquity of wifi, mobile devices, and social media. I was glad to see her again.

So why do I find that so remarkable, and important? Well, I like connecting with people, and I have a lot of connections. A quick check of social networks that I use mostly for friends and family tells me that:

I have 620 friends on Facebook.
I'm following 450 people on my (personal) Twitter account.

Granted, they aren't all close connections, but I'm following them all for one reason or another. Without social media, and the ability to take it with me (on a mobile device) where ever I go, I wouldn't be able to stay connected to nearly as many people as I do. 

As time rolls on, the memory fades, and as we lose touch with people, we forget about them. It wasn't all that long ago that I last saw Margaret, and I'm sure that I would have recognized her in the airport, even if I didn't see her status update on Facebook today, but if it had been a much longer span of time, I'm not quite so sure. I can thank mobile (and social) for making it a happy coincidence today. 

Needless to say, you will be hearing more about my week at the residency. Stay tuned!