02 September 2010

we live in public

More than a decade ago, I ran the Personals and Promotions Department at the Philadelphia Weekly. Every week, I’d help hundreds of lonely hearts pen personal ads that would hopefully, land them a love connection (and help fill my 10-page, back-of-the-paper section). In addition to offering up my wordsmithing skills, I’d coordinate singles events on a weekly basis – everything from awkward heterosexual meet and greets at hipster bars to bump and grind gay dance parties to the occasional “Anything Goes” swingers soiree for the dirty birds. I could fill more pages than you can imagine with my experiences, and if you buy me a beer sometime, I may be willing to dish some of the more (ahem) colorful details.

My dating life never sucked more than once I’d started penning the widely popular advice column “Ask Me Anything,” and was deemed the local dating guru. Sure, I was the first point of contact for hundreds of eligible bachelors, and I even dabbled in a few first dates with some of my more charming advertisers, but the most long term commitment I managed to muster up was a stalker who landed himself in jail (and then proceeded to harass me for more than a decade). Since this incident, I’ve been fiercely protective of my identity and whereabouts, going so far as to use pseudonyms in several editorial outlets and use a mailbox service several miles from my residence.

So when the world of social media started to evolve, the idea of sacrificing my privacy gave me serious pause. I’d fought so long to keep a low-profile, but was wooed by Facebook and Twitter and blogging and new possibilities of networking and personal connections that I decided to take a chance when I launched my Kickstarter fundraising campaign last November. I mean, there was no way in the world I could ask strangers to help fund The Global Citizen Project without full disclosure of who I was. I don’t regret my decision for a second.

Since then, I’ve made countless friends via social media networks and have never, ever had a less-than-stellar experience with a cyber someone I’ve met in real life (or IRL in Twitter speak). There’s a long “wish list” of Twitter friends I hope to someday cross paths with, but in the meantime, I practice reasonable cyber caution and welcome the possibility of making acquaintances via avatars, handles and 140 character limits.

Next week, I especially look forward to meeting Raquel Segura (@aireslibre) on a long layover in Miami, then Alison Garland (@AliAdventures7) when I arrive in Quito, Ecuador. When it comes to socializing and making connections, we live in a very different world these days. It's weird and crazy and absolutely fascinating, and I find that if you open yourself up to it, there are some really beautiful connections to be made via social media.

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