Ham Radio, Hugs And Finding Meaning On Twitter: Jeff Pulver At Social Media Breakfast Waterloo

In a brightly lit room at the excruciatingly early (for us bloggers, at least) hour of 7:45 in the morning, Jeff Pulver was giving a room full of social media acolytes hugs.

He was also talking about the early days of Twitter, our current place amid a communications revolution, and how to become someone who can change the world. And all this over waffles and fruits.

If you aren’t familiar with Jeff Pulver, you probably are… but you just don’t know it. He’s been an influential voice in the tech space for years, and is the founder of the 140 Character Conference that has taken place in cities from New York to Tel Aviv. He also co-founded Vonage, and is an investor in Twitter, FourSquare and other cutting-edge social technologies.

And his expertise was in full form during the Social Media Breakfast Waterloo meeting in November.

Pulver’s main topic was finding meaning on Twitter and social media in general. He opened with an anecdote about growing up using ham radio to communicate with strangers all around the world – he only knew them by their handles, and often had short bursts of conversation, just like Twitter.

This sparked his interest in the power of communication, and he never looked back.

When Twitter launched, he was intrigued at how easy connect with others and find real-time information. After exploring it for two years, he decided to host a Twitter-themed conference, where people could share their stories of how Twitter impacted their lives.

This would eventually become the first 140 Character Conference in New York in the summer of 2009.

Pulver was able to snag such influential guests as Rick Sanchez (one of the first journalists on Twitter), Ann Curry and Al Jazeera to speak to the way that Twitter was impacting their worlds.

During that first 140 Character Conference and the many that followed, attendees heard stories about how Twitter facilitated communication during the Iranian Revolution, how it helped Doctors Without Borders to land in Haiti shortly after the earthquake, and a whole host of other breathtaking tales of making a difference in 140 characters or less.

And Pulver doesn’t believe that the powerful nature of Twitter can only be harnessed by the already-powerful. He emphasized how lucky we all are to be living in a communications revolution that connects people scattered around the globe together.

He spoke about finding meaning on Twitter as being an exercise not of typing and reading, but hearing and listening. Being vulnerable, and being yourself. And going beyond all this to actually love yourself and believe in your message and your voice.

And it was around this time, when we were all swept up in his passionate words, that we began hugging each other.

Pulver took a sidebar to explain that he prefers to hug the people he meets, as it is much more personal (and sanitary!). Since we had all been sitting for about an hour, he asked us all to stand up, turn to the person beside us, and give them a hug. So we did.

The room couldn’t have been more comfortable after that. Pulver wrapped up his talk by taking a few questions from the crowd, and we all stuck around as long as possible to network, talk to one another, and even give more hugs (I got one from the man himself when we chatted!).

We might’ve been using more than 140 characters in that room, but it was Twitter that brought us all there, and Jeff Pulver who showed us how to connect to one another – both via short text bursts and by giving each other a big, friendly hug from time to time.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Social Media Breakfast events, check out their website here. There are breakfasts in cities across North America, and if there isn’t one in your city – sign up to host your own!