Connecting with Social Media Friends... but IRL.
Social media (and hell, the internet in general) often gets vilified as this drug that keeps us plugged into our devices and never present in our real lives—constantly seeking dopamine spikes from new followers or "likes" of our posts.
But like anything, social media is a tool.
You can use it for its intended purpose—to connect and congregate with like-minded people—or you can overuse it and spend all day mindlessly scrolling through someone else's life highlight reels instead of building the life you desire.
And while I do slip into the trap of the latter, I also effectively use (and have greatly benefitted from) it as the former.
When I began to push my ideas out to the public five years or so ago, I intentionally stepped up my social media and content creation game in order to connect with more folks in my space as well as find the people that needed my services.
One of the most effective and most fulfilling of those attempts was the launch of my podcast, "The Storytelling Lab."
This show gave me a great icebreaker or introduction to anyone doing great work in the storytelling/social media space, which quickly had a snowball effect. One great guest would introduce me to another, and so on.
When Covid hit, it made these connections and communities more important, so I doubled my efforts—reaching out to anyone that I thought would be interesting to talk to and that was passionate about their purpose.
Troy Sandidge stuck out to me quickly.
I found him on Twitter and saw he was doing great work, plus we had a lot of mutual followers and friends, so I invited him on the show.
When we started the interview (I think he was very much expecting an interview) he seemed caught off guard by my conversational style and lack of a format. But he quickly caught on and shrugged it off, trusting the process and possibly just accepting that it might be crap and he'd never hear from me again.
In fact, it was one of the favorite interviews that his father (who was eagerly listening as any supportive parent would) had ever heard of his.
Troy emailed me:
"I'm embarrassed to say how many times my father has listened to our episode. And other episodes of yours. Gives us great things to talk about and lets him more into my world. So thank you for that and the opportunity to your podcast. It's allowed and lead to a few things for me and I'm so appreciative of that. So happy to be connected and stay in touch with your insights and journey."
I responded back immediately:
"Listen. If you don't update me on your father's listen count EVERY time we communicate then we are NOT friends anymore. He, and you, have given me life in 2020 haha. Hopefully, 2021 brings us a chance to meet IRL. I can't imagine what it would be like to share the stage with each other!"
Over the next two years, we continued to support each other from afar on our projects, conducted several Clubhouse rooms in the early part of 2021 (remember the Clubhouse days??), and kept in touch over Twitter.
But we never got that chance to meet in real life. Until last week.
I was in Chicago, Troy's part of the world, for a couple of days for a short documentary and since I had a rental car reserved and a few hours on the day of my departure, I thought I'd surprise him with a visit.
He was down and the plan was made.
But like plans seem to do sometimes, it quickly got disrupted and destroyed by life.
No rental cars were available at Midway airport, no matter if you had a reservation or not. And with no guarantee on when one would arrive, I bailed and called an Uber. I spent the next two days being driven around by my camera operator.
When I called Troy to tell him that I couldn't make it to see him the Monday before I left, he did something that some of my best friends wouldn't have done.
He offered to not only drive out to see me, but drive me to the airport (which was not the Chicago airport closest to his home).
We spent a couple of hours together having coffee and talking about our plans and lives—how we tried to balance work and life, both being obsessed with our work but loving our families, what we were focusing on for the next year, and new businesses that we wanted to create.
And of course, I sent a video to his dad, congratulating him on his recent retirement.
It was short but sweet and it meant the world to me that both of us would carve out time on a Monday morning to meet with someone we've only Tweeted with.
They say that we are the average of those we spend the most time around.
And I would argue that any connection we have can have a massive influence on who we are, what we do, and how we act.
Just know that those connections don't all have to be "in real life."
But it sure is nice when they get the chance to be.
Thanks for the ride, Troy.