19 June 2009

Wouldn't You Like to Get Away...

It's a loose connection, but here goes: Woody Harrelson went to school at Hanover College in Hanover, Indiana. I grew up in Scottsburg, Indiana, about 20 miles from Hanover. Woody's character on the sitcom Cheers was from a small town in Indiana. I love Indiana. I love Cheers.

I've always enjoyed the idea of living in a small town, knowing my neighbors, having conversations with people I love and respect, feeling influential, and feeling connected to my surroundings. I enjoyed those feelings growing up in southern Indiana. I experienced those precious gifts night in and night out, whether it took the form of a waving neighbor as you're driving by, a "long time no see" beer on the house at Hardy's Cafe, or a trip to the grocery store that took 30 minutes too long because you talked to everyone in the store.

- Cue the music. -

Making your way in the world today
takes everything you've got.
Taking a break from all your worries,
sure would help a lot.

Wouldn't you like to get away?

Sometimes you want to go
where everybody knows your name.
And they're always glad you came.
You want to be where people know,
people are all the same.
You want to be where everyone knows your name.

Twitter used to be Cheers for me. It was this little hole in the wall that connected me with some of the brightest and most interesting minds in the credit union world. We'd talk about credit union innovation. About technology. About the world of financial news. About politics. We made each other think, laugh, grow, and achieve. It had nothing to do with self-promotion...it had everything to do with self improvement.

Those days seem to be gone. Not the connections...those are here to stay. But Twitter is no longer Cheers. Shari Storm recently wrote on the CUES Skybox blog that Ashton Kutcher and CNN deserve a lot of the blame for making Twitter less special. In her post, Shari asks a wonderful question:

"Which is better, having a small group of people who love you a lot or a large group of people who are familiar with you?"

Without question, I'd rather have a small group of people I love (and that loves me) a lot. I have no doubt that's simply small-town Indiana coming out in me, but that's what made Twitter special to me. I still love Twitter, but in a much different way. It's now Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, and the countless other social networking sites that have popped into our lives as the new flavor of the month. Each has been bastardized by self-promoters, sales people trying to sell to salespeople, "Britney Spears" sex tape SPAM, and "[fill in the blank] has sent you a gift" messages. Each, I have no doubt, will be replaced by the new flavor of the month when it arrives.

I have written several times on this blog about how much I disagree with some credit unions' "grow or go away" mentality. What I feel about Twitter these days only highlights my argument. The more popular things become, the less special they become. We each have a maximum number of relationships that we can maintain well. That number differs greatly from person to person, but I can almost assure you that it is much fewer than the number of followers you have right now on Twitter. I have created well-researched, graphical depictions of this phenomenon below:

Your value shouldn't be measured by the size of your network. Instead, you should focus on the strength of your connections. If you are able to manage more than my Cheers size network, so be it. Norm, Cliff, and I are content with the usual.


Breathe said...

This is why I don't follow everyone who follows me. Those people are on internet steroids, trying to bulk up.

Same with blogs.

See? You are special!


But seriously, marketers are trying to exploit what is all about sincere connection, instead of tapping into it with sincere connections.

I'm not sure that made sense, but it's late and I was on a plane today, and there was a guy in the airport wearing 5 cowboy hats on his head.

No kidding.

Okay, I'm going to bed.

Matt, the Credit Union Warrior said...

@Winter Why wouldn't you wear 5 cowboy hats on your head? Honestly?

The thing with "internet steroids" is that they are not performance enhancing drugs... (it's late for me too)

Ben said...

It just takes a little discipline, (which I don't have) and unfollowing (which I don't do) to keep your own little corner a Cheers-like haven.

Unfortunately, the size of your relationship is also affected by the other people your friends are following, so even if you cut they fat, they might not.

No answer here, but the same feelings.

Matt, the Credit Union Warrior said...

@Ben That's such a slippery slope, you know? When you decide not to follow someone back it's like you're saying to them, "You know? I'm maxed out. Would love to get to know you, but my capacity is XXX follows." Turns out, I've actually gotten to meet a ton of neat people because of Twitter that I wouldn't have had I simply blocked or unfollowed.

I'm not sure my concerns even require action. The point is simply that Twitter isn't the same as it used to be...and popularity has everything to do with it. I think Shari's spot on. Maybe being the best kept secret isn't so bad.

terrell said...

Nice post. I've always been the type of person who has a few really close friends, rather than a large number of acquaintances. So, all the 'friending' and 'following' that goes along with social is overwhelming to me.

On Twitter, I am guilty of following and unfollowing as I like. I'm sure this hurts some people's feelings, but I like being able to control what information is coming my way.

Facebook is the same way. I have no problem with not friending people or even dropping friends.

I'm sure I've missed out on some opportunities by doing this. It's the way I'm wired though.

I'm still enjoying Twitter, but I find I'm using it less to connect with folks in my industry.

I totally get the Cheers analogy because I feel the same way about Yelp. When I joined 4 years ago I felt like I knew everyone on the Seattle site. As the site has grown, there are so many new faces that I feel like I can't keep up. I still hang out with my core group of friends, but I no longer use the site like I used to.

Sorry for the long response.

Jeff Hardin said...

Very interesting post, and I guess in my case, ironic. I never really cared too much for Twitter, essentially because we can't download the Apps at work that help to make Twitter more of a conversational tool.

So it's like being at Cheers, only with frequent "smoke breaks."



You come in from a break and the conversation is completely different than when you left.

At any rate the ironic thing for me is that now I have re-branded my Twitter account to post CU news and info with a NC perspective. And I will be looking at Twitter as a means of sharing and collecting CU information rather than trying to relate on a personal level (between cosmic smoke breaks).

So it will be a different approach for me, but one that hopefully will be a little more relevant to others than what I could do before.

The New MBA said...

I liked your post, Matt. And I liked Winter's story about five cowboy hats.

Your post did make me thirsty for a beer, which is no good since it is 4:52 am.

Keep up the good work.

-shari storm

Jeff Hardin said...

The New MBA: Well, 5:00 am Pacific Time is 5:00pm in Calcutta. Just sayin'. ;)