I used to work with a person who was always contrary.  You’d start a sentence "I think…" and then would get interrupted to find out that she thought you were wrong.  It got to the point where we’d talk about the weather and that was pretty much it.  I hope that this post isn’t interpreted as such!

I read one of Rodd Lucier’s posts recently where he wanted to know "Which Connections Matter Most?"  After explaining what prompted him to ask this question, he dug a big into the topic and then indicated that his preference was "it’s clear that my relationships with those I’ve met face-to-face or voice-to-voice, tend be the deepest both intellectually and emotionally."  It was an interesting discussion that Rodd took in getting to this conclusion.  I’m not sure that I agree with him though.  The inclusion of the word "Most" helps me frame my thoughts.  The opposite premise would be "Which Connections Matter Least?" and the inference would be that the non-face-to-face or non-voice-to-voice would be in that category.

I think that (this is where I’d be interrupted) there probably was a time when I would agree with him.  In the way that I work currently, I think that it’s changed.  I’m talking about the professional relationships here.  There’s no doubt that, at one time, it was the ultimate goal to "finally meet" someone and have a drink and chat about things.  I don’t believe that it is necessary to make that connection to reach that intellectual or emotional relationship.

One a daily basis, I absolutely connect with so many people using social media though Twitter, Facebook, mailing lists, and Google+.  I make no bones about it; at the end of the day, I walk away smarter and better off through these connections.  I suppose I could even be considered selfish as I definitely feel that I take away far more than what I give back.  As I skim through the list of connections, I think that I maybe know 5% of them face to face.  I don’t discriminate based upon the relationship.  I equally value the relationship with a teacher-librarian in Australia and one with a guy who kissed me in the lobby of a Toronto hotel.  One I’ve never met and probably never will and the other I have and do meet up with periodically.

I think there’s something special and unique when you move your learning online.  The learning and the connections work at a different level but are not any more or less important that the face to face ones.  They are just there.  In fact, they may be even more efficient in that you have to get right to the point.  If we believe that there is much to be had with online education, online learning, or blended learning, then the connections there have to be equally as good as face to face.  Otherwise, it becomes hard to be a proponent of the network as a legitimate learning environment.

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One comment

  1. Hi Doug,
    Yes, the more I connect and learn with people online and through social media, the more I find I don’t think/worry about the difference between face to face and online as much. But I still find myself stopping to reflect every once and awhile whether this is okay. There are a number of people who I chat with almost every day online. Some I get to “see” in some online formats. You know you have developed a close connection when you finally do see them in person a hug seems to be the most natural thing to do! As I have said recently, after you have been connecting and coversing with someone online for some time you can easily forget that you haven’t met in person yet! I am often in awe of this. Yet I continue to think there is much judgement that this online connecting is still not as valuable and “real”. Scutiny from others no longer affects me the way it used to though. Sometimes I feel like some of us go around feeling like we have this secret handshake but we never intended it to look or be that way – just perceptions of others?


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