Yesterday’s storm was the worst storm I have ever experienced in my life. With gusts up to 70mph, trees fell, power lines came down, and roofs blew off. There were fires and people still without power and being told not to expect power to be restored until Tuesday or Wednesday. A tree fell in our backyard and, by a miracle, came through the gap in the railing on our deck causing minimal damage. Our neighbor behind us was not quite so lucky – a massive cherry tree crushed his deck, as well as everything on it, and barely missed his house. Our next door neighbor – who just closed on the house about a week ago – had two tremendous pines fall forward toward the street. If you are a homeowner, you know that tree removal is expensive. What a way to embark upon homeownership!
When we woke up this morning and looked out the window at our backyard, we surveyed the damage and this giant tree laying across our yard. Dan determined we were in need of a chainsaw (which of course we didn’t have – surprisingly). So, he left messages with a few friends and I decided to post a request on Twitter & Facebook. I got suggestions, friends who RT’ed (Re-Tweeted for those of you non-Tweeters) my request to pass it along to their followers and a Long Island attorney who actually had one left behind by an ex. I sat back a moment and contemplated the power of social media – I was able to get more of a response than my husband who left messages for his friends. Social networking isn’t just about marketing & business, its about engaging, connecting, and sharing with each other. It take the concept of the neighborhood to the next level – creating virtual “neighbors” who come to each others’ aid in times of crisis, celebrate together in times of joy and allow us to create that sense of “belonging” that appears to be sorely lacking.
Growing up in Queens, we had stoops in front of our homes where we connected with our neighbors. We would sit out on the stoop and people would stop by to chat, friends would gather and you knew your neighbors. I remember the Blackout of ’77 (I know..I am dating myself) when everyone gathered outside and it was more like a big block party, not a crisis. Here on Long Island, there are no virtually no stoops or porches and people spend their leisure time in their backyards – cut off from the interaction that would normally take place by encountering passersbys. I think it facilitates a lonely and solitary existence – I have neighbors that we have not exchanged more than 5 words with since we bought the house in 1997.
With the advent of the internet and social media, we are again interacting with our neighbors except that term now encompasses geographic neighbors as well as those we create because of similar interests, professions, schools etc. We can touch lives and make friends with people we might never have encountered but for Twitter, Facebook, and other social networks. I have friends now all over the country as well as people closer by that I would never have met but for social networking. My life is much richer because of this experience.
Social networking isn’t just online – it spills over to in-person networking as well. Groups and meetups have sprouted everywhere and they are scheduling in-person events where virtual friends & colleagues can meet face to face. I was invited to one such event, Tomatoes & Thyme on March 18th, by one of my tweeps – it is being held by The Three Tomatoes – an online network that caters to “women who aren’t kids” and even if I have to move a mountain to do it (or just fight sheer laziness), I am going to go.
So tonight, although the air is heavy with the scent of pine, I am grateful that not only was our house not crushed by a tree and we have power, but for my virtual neighbors who lent a helping hand when I needed it and I can’t wait for the 18th!