Last Thursday, I attended a conference online. My friend, Cheryl, had spent untold hours putting the conference together. A few of my friends were speaking there and a few other of my friends were working there. So, last Thursday, I locked myself into my office at work with a stack of data entry stuff, I set up a second computer at my desk, and I attended the 140 Conference in Vancouver, WA. (Isn’t it amazing that I could sit in my office in Falcon, NC and simultaneously attend a conference almost 3,000 miles away?! Sometimes, I just love technology!)
The 140 Conference was one of those things that had sounded neat when I’d heard about it, but really, the reason I attended was to support my friends who had invested so much time into it: Cheryl Bledsoe (@CherylBle), Tim Bledsoe (@TimBledsoe), Jason Hillard (@homeloan_ninja), Mary Rarick (@Mary_Rarick), Dale Chumbley (@DaleChumbley), and Nick Church (@Schnik). (If I’m forgetting any of my friends who worked or spoke, I’m sorry!) But as I listened to the speakers, I found myself taking notes. Before I knew it, I had learned something.
I actually had two pretty major “Ah-ha!” moments during the 140 Conference. The first revelation was that I needed to revisit, redefine, and refine my goal for being on Twitter. When I first joined, I had two goals. First, I had a short term goal to see the live tweets of an event for my job. More importantly, my goal was to be accessible to the readers of the magazine column I was writing at that time. I thought that was all there would be to my Twitter experience. I was wrong. About ten months after I joined Twitter, my schedule became so hectic that I had to give up my column. Suddenly, I had no Twitter goal, but I also had no desire to give up on Twitter. But I was left with this nagging question of “Why Am I Here?”
The other revelation came as I watched the very lively, animated Dale Chumbley give his 10-minute talk. As he spoke, it occurred to me that one of the things I really admire about him is his willingness to take big risks. He takes these huge risks, knowing that his ideas could make him a big target and that he could fail. But he doesn’t run from that. Rather, he embraces the challenges, and as a result, makes a huge difference in his world. I’m not like that. I don’t like to take risks. I like to stick pretty close to my comfort zone. I’m afraid to put myself out there and possibly look foolish or fail. As a result of this, I’ve been hiding, even on Twitter. I try to fly under the radar, never getting involved in conversations that might challenge me or open me up to ridicule or rejection. Where I might have something to offer, I hold back and keep my opinions to myself except with the small group of people that I feel the safest with.
I walked away from the 140 Conference with two questions:
“What am I doing here?”
“Am I willing to take a risk to meet my goal?”
To the first question, I’d have to refer to my Twitter profile bio—especially the portion that says that I’m a hugger and a friend. It may seem unimportant next to people who tweet for large corporations or causes, but it’s important to me that these incredible, amazing people I’ve met and continue to meet on Twitter know that they are unique, important, valued, and loved. That’s why I stay here.
And am I willing to take risks to meet that goal?