The importance of real-life relationships

Between Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Flickr, the hundreds of thousands of online social networks, Skype, IMs, email, texts and of course Google, it’s easy to get a pretty clear picture of who a person is, what his or her interests are and a peek inside their personality.

Except it’s not.

There are so many ways to connect with a person online that meeting a person face to face, in real life, is becoming a less attractive last resort. Even with all the modern conveniences, there are some visual cues that can only perceived through face-to-face conversation.

It’s the twinkle of the eye or the arch of the eyebrow. The stammering speech or the blush of the cheek. Forgive the flowery prose, but that’s what makes humans so damn interesting: the little things that can’t be picked up through online interaction.

A big reason why I’m looking forward to this week’s Online News Association conference is that while I interact with hundreds of journalists, writers, techies and designers online, I have actually only met a small few in person. It is important to get the know the people behind the avatars and the tweets, to understand the personalities that make the web the fun and interactive place it is.

For journalists, it is especially important to get up from behind the computer and meet sources and be reminded of the people who make up the community you cover. There is no use in writing stories or developing applications for people who you only exist inside your head.

We’re all guilty of it and while I’m not encouraging anyone to toss out their Blackberrys, iPhones or laptops, consider what insight or information you may be losing by not interacting with a person, in person.