Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Blog Potomac Happy Hour...Wasn't So Happy

I was supposed to have gone to to Blog Potomac last week but, as I posted then, I didn't want to go down in the bad mom hall of fame for choosing to go to a blogger conference over my son's graduation from grade school. I did, however, go to the happy hour the night before, which I haven't really said much about.

But after reading my friend Elizabeth's post about Blog Potomac, I started to comment about the happy hour and figured I may as well just blog about it.

What inspired me to write this post--which I hope won't degrade into a rant-- was one particular quote from one of the sessions:
"Social media can make people look more social than they necessarily are in real life."

A-freakin'-men. I probably would not have gone to the happy hour had I been able to attend the actual event, but, since I couldn't, I figured I may as well try to at least get a bit of what I'd hoped to get from the actual conference: some networking, meeting people with interests similar to mine, etc. Usually I avoid traffic at all costs, but I willingly took the hell ride that is the beltway south to Northern Virginia at 5:30 pm on a weekday, to get to the happy hour. I sat in traffic for a full hour and finally arrived at Carpool, where it was being held.

Here's the thing: I was exhausted from working all day, then battling traffic for an hour. I'm a woman. I'm 41. I don't customarily hang out in bars. To walk into that place, not knowing a soul, was hard enough--the only reason I did it was thinking I'd be part of a group and not look like a 41 year old woman standing around a bar by herself. There'd be a clearly marked part of the place where Blog Potomac Happy Hour was being held, right? Wrong. Because it was an "unconference" that included no nametag, no sign--oh, and no greeting of any kind. Just good luck to you if you can figure out which clump of people in this huge bar are the people there for Blog Potomac.

I did the big-girl thing--I walked up to strangers and said hi. Have you ever done that? In regular social situations, usually people recognize you for what you are: a person embarrassed to be standing by herself so they attempt to include you in their conversation so you don't feel like a total ass. But did you see the quote above about social media making people seem more social than they are? Well, this happy hour was a social event for social media people--which meant some of them were, well, not so social in reality. Which meant my usual walk up and say hi and please take pity on me and include me in your conversation didn't go over so well--I approached a few groups, only to have them say hi, then turn back to their conversation. Thankfully I found one guy who was friendly and didn't make me feel like an idiot for walking up to him and planting myself gratefully in the chair next to him when he didn't immediately turn away.

I did end up meeting up with a person I'd been told to look for, and she was very friendly. She and another Twitter friend, who was also friendly. But just as I was finally actually enjoying myself, the organizer of the event walked up--he happened to be a friend of my one of my conversation partners. He interrupted without so much as a hi to the two people who were talking to her and said "There are some people you need to meet." And just like that, she was gone--and not so much as a "sorry to interrupt you guys" from the gracious host of the social hour for social media people.

I have to tell you, I was not impressed. Actually, more than that--I was mad. I bought a ticket for Blog Potomac back in January. I blogged about the event, tweeted about it--even gave my ticket away when I couldn't attend. It's one thing for blogging and social media to be informal or "unconferenc-y" or otherwise non-traditional. But can we at least remember that when we meet IRL (that's "in real life" if you are not a computer nerd like I am) the regular rules of human engagement apply? It's hard to stand around and make conversation with a bunch of strangers--and maybe harder still when the people standing around are, by nature, people who are maybe more comfortable online than standing around chatting at a bar.

Ok, that was perhaps more rant-y than I'd intended but the more I keep typing, the worse it's going to get, so I better just stop.

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