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PSA: your virtual online friends are part of your family

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People love you. People care about you. And your business. And your employees, colleagues, and gigs. While only a few will accept the moniker of fanboi, so many others will be forever casually attached.

I recently spent a ten-day stint in Alexandria Hospital. Amazing docs, nurses and techs. No matter how much I try to diminish the import of my time in a buttless gown and adjustable bed, ten days is ten days. While I was there, I felt vulnerable, embarrassed, self-conscious, and stupid. So, no social media check-ins, no Facebook Live, no Twitter, and no YouTube vlogging. I didn’t even Instragram my platters of red jello, black coffee, and turkey with gravy. Nobody online got to meet the beautiful nurses who, angels on earth every last one of them, prevented me from shuffling off this mortal coil.

While I was working hard on getting well and choking down horse pills, my dearest friend Betsy called all of our shared friends: David, Ali, Effie, Andrew, Minh, Mike, Aimee, Keith, and as many people as she knew. So many folks dropped by to spend time, hook me up with chargers and earphones. With books, magazines, and puzzles.

But they weren’t all of my friends. And those folks were my responsibility. College chums, former client besties, my Masonic Brothers, friends in other cities, states, and  countries.

And I forgot all of my nieces, cousins, nephews, uncles, aunts, et al.

Worst of all, because I was being Internet-shy, I basically went dark for two weeks on all my virtual brothers, sisters, aunties and uncles, nieces and nephews, and all the folks I have known and loved—really love—online, across Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Mostly Facebook, to be honest. And while most of these people aren’t genetically related to me, they’re surely part of my tribe.

Oh, they all were pissed. Oh, they weren’t happy with me at all.

I should known better. Over the years I have penned Online communities are not virtualOnline communities are most authenticOnline communities are discovered not madeAre anonymous communities most authentic?, but even I can get caught up in my own feelings of pride: feelings of insecurity and even a dollop of shame.

But all of these beautiful, human, loving men and women more than deserved a call, email, text, Skype, or even a Facebook Messenger IM—even those who have basically divorced me over politics and the election for the thought bombs I drop maybe too casually. Especially them, because in that case, reconnecting with them personally on a call will do more to remind them that I am still the loving, charming, witty, lovebug they’ve always known and love.

I know better but I didn’t know better when I was in the grip.

Hey, my buddy David came down from NYC to check in on me as did my former business partner Mark, from Fort Lauderdale.

The same goes for my clients, past and present, my friends, both real virtual online and IRL, and even, possibly, my 49,400 lurkers on Twitter and 4,900 lurkers on Facebook.

An analog for your business Likes, followers, and friends

Don’t make the mistake I did. Don’t commoditize your clients, your vendors, your business associates, your colleagues, your prospects, your fans, your admirers, and even your freeloaders, ever—and doubly so for those often unknowable hundreds and thousands and hundreds-of-thousands of people who Like, follow, heart, and subscribe you.

What I mean is that going silent, bunkering down when you’re busy or when you’re going through some challenges or even hitting the skids or after you’ve survived three minutes lifeless on a table only to be quickly and effectively revived—especially then.

When you look at the amalgam of photos and experiences on your walls, social media looks like an endless Gatsbyesque party, a constant visit to Machu Picchu and The French Laundry and Paris and Cabo, but if you’re willing to dig down into the best social media influencers, you’ll notice that they’re willing to share their banal as well as their highlights, there often even willing to discuss their tragedies, their breakups, their failures, and then their recoveries. It’s true and Greatist agrees in The Surprising Reasons We Like Sad Movies.

People love you. People care about you. And your business. And your employees, colleagues, and gigs. While only a few will accept the moniker of fanboi, so many others will be forever casually attached.

You can see it happen every day on Kickstarter. The best Kickstarter campaigns do way more than simply offer ground-floor access to super-cool, they also convert your investment into “letters from camp” where they involve you as closely as you’d care to be in their creative and production process. People love being behind the scenes, even between takes, even before and after the big concert. What’s better than the big show? The green room!

And beware of favoritism. You shouldn’t only love on your contest winners, your top contributors, and the stable of A-list online influencers you’ve paid for.

Some family reunions reach the thousands

Everyone’s real. Everyone’s family. See all the folks in your personal, business, brand, and employee social media profiles your community. A sort of a family. “But who has a family that big made almost exclusively of people I don’t even know?” Well, if you back off to all the Smiths or the Porteau-Boileves there are, anywhere, I guarantee that you’ll understand that it’s impossible for me to know all the ABRAHAMs, though quite a few of them are undeniably part of my family. The Porteau-Boileves family has the Guinness World Record for the most people to attend a family reunion: 4,514 people in Vendée, Saint-Paul-Mont-Penit, France, on August 19, 2012, with a candlestick.

I messed up. You can learn from my failure. I let my human foibles come in the way of my best behavior. I allowed pride and hubris and fear to come in the way of my better angels. The worst the news, the more important and timely the message. I don’t know if I will do it any differently were this to happen again but I really should. I really should have.

And you should, too.

Jan 31, 2017 12:00 AM