Daniel Greene has an interesting post about the need for offline conversations that can help us make sense of our lives online. As he puts it:
I need a forum for discussion– a structured, moderated, real life, real time conversation about social media. I need to listen to people’s personal experiences with social media and I need to talk about mine. I don’t want the conversation to be about how to “drive traffic” and “target markets” and “strengthen your brand.” I just want to sit around with people who create and share a lot of stuff on the Internet not because they want to make money but just because they want to share. The question for me is: how do we share things with other people. I don’t think that reading another article or attending a social media lecture or listening to a panel discussion is going to satisfy me. I want a rap group with an agenda. Anybody know of one?
Commenters have suggested the Social Media Club along with other social media events you can find on Twitter. But speaking from personal experience, I find there’s a big gap between Social Media Events per se, and the kinds of gatherings where you can actually talk thoughtfully about social media and how to make sense of it.
I love my fellow social media pros, but when we flock our conversations often unfold a lot like our blog posts or twitter conversations, devolving quickly into link exchanges and debates over software or communications best practices. The conversations I have that really change how I think about social media — as opposed to how I practice it — tend to happen more informally. They’re the conversations that begin with my “civilian” (as opposed to social media) friends asking me a question about Facebook, or with me talking with a friend about something I’m dealing with online, or even (as happened recently) with me inserting myself into an overheard conversation about the impact of social networking.
But I don’t think the impact of these conversations lie in the fact that I’m getting an outside or man-on-the-web perspective. I think it’s that official social media gatherings are still so focused on the business and organizational impact of social media that we aren’t talking about our personal experience and personal use. Yes, there are plenty of mommy blogger panels or first-person presentations by social media adventurers. What I’m talking about — and what I think Daniel is talking about — is the need for gatherings among social media users, where we can talk about our social media lives rather than our social media practices.
Like Daniel, I’m delighted to get suggestions.