When IRL Imitates Social Media

IRL = In Real Life

“We are what we repeatedly do”

“It takes a village…”

I thought these two quotes appropriately captured the driving force behind my recent ’Tweet Up’ this past week. Although in fairness to my fellow cohorts, it was a ‘blog-meet-up’ (if that’s even a word?) This particular meeting was given birth well before the Twitter juggernaut ever reared it’s tweety little head.

I have known Mike Sevilla, MD () and Emily Bennett () for the better part of 7 years. All of which have been online. My relationship with them, heck let’s call it my friendship. My friendship with them spawned out of a mutual love for blogging. We were all health care professionals (a physician, a nurse practitioner and and nurse) who shared a passion for storytelling through blogging.

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During those first handful of years(circa ?2006?) many of us, including myself, blogged anonymously. In fact, Mike became a very prolific blogger with the surname Doctor Anonymous. Back then we were just trying to get our voice heard. We blogged our stories. We blogged about our trials and tribulations. We blogged about the good and the bad. I, like many others, started blogging as a creative outlet. I not only had some stories to tell, but I wanted to know if I was alone? Was I the only one experiencing these crazy things life threw at me, both personally and professionally.

Back then your blog became your sounding  board. It became a virtual ‘profile’ of sorts. Social networking was channeled through your blog and your blog posts. You communicated with other bloggers by way of your blog post comments. There was no immediate feedback. That came later with other pre-Twitter and pre-Facebook social media websites (ever heard of Friend Feed?)

Back then if you wanted to ‘talk’ with someone you communicated through leaving comments. Comments were left on blogs and conversations were started and more blog posts were inspired by the very comments you were reading and writing. As a blogger during those first few years, I can remember impatiently waiting for that first comment on a new blog post. You awaited some feedback, whether good or bad, just to get some validation that someone was reading what you were writing. I can remember the first time I had a comment left by someone who did not reside in the continental United States!!!! I can remember being awestruck at the idea that my words reached other ends of the globe (Canada, then Europe, then Australia, etc.) When a comment was left on your blog, it was because a human-being took the time to read your post and felt motivated enough to convey their thoughts about the words you typed.

I remember Mike was that anonymous doctor-dude who had an amazing intelligent sense of humor (equal parts dry, sarcastic and witty) while maintaining a level of professionalism expected from a physician. He posted great quality content that spanned the world from tech-geek Apple stuff all the way to health care, health care reform and social responsibility.

Emily was the original ‘crzegrl’. She was this free-spirited tattoo-laden wild child who not only served her county in the Army, but was a flight nurse and a nurse practitioner to boot! She transparently shared some of her most intimate life stories that made any reader stop and pay attention to the very air in their lungs.

Both of them were part of an amazing array of bloggers that taught me how to blog, taught me how to verbalize my thoughts while sharing a story. They were the original story tellers and I wanted so very badly to be part of their crew!

It was during this time that I forged some of the most lasting relationships with other bloggers. Other nurses, other physicians, and other paramedicine professionals who were just as passionate as I was! I was communicating on a regular basis with EMT’s, paramedics, MD’s, RN’s, etc. just about blogging, and all the myriad of topics we were blogging about! In the beginning I felt like I ‘knew’ these people, more than just through a screen, but truly knew who they were. Whomever they were on the screen was who they were in real life.

As the years progressed, so did the number of blogs and the number of bloggers. We went from a few handful to a few hundred, to eventually thousands (millions and probably billions now). This growth in numbers impacted the conversations..

All of a sudden our digital lives exploded and ratcheted up to warp speed with the hot-iron strike-like popularity of Twitter and the eventual public release of Facebook (While Twitter was released in 2006, it didn’t catch fire until late 2007. Facebook was by invitation only as a college student until ?2008?). These two social media outlets would change the face of blogging. Something I did not see coming.

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The blog commenting and conversations slowly migrated over to Twitter. The initial impact and change was an amazing experience. We went from the delayed gratification of our ‘commenting’ conversation to an immediate ‘real-time’ talk between bloggers. The conversations didn’t change at first, just the avenue in which they were conducted. But, like all thing that humans touch. We can’t be happy with just a little bit. We have to have more. We have to over-indulge. We have to over-saturate. We have to satisfy our greedy nature.

Twitter went from chats and quality conversations to the micro-update. Instead of sparking conversations, we were posting snippets of thoughts. Useless blips of mental diarrhea if you ask me.  And if we weren’t posting snippets we were luring our followers to follow us to another website, or link, or profile, etc. We weren’t actually on Twitter to chat, we were on Twitter to ‘advertise’. Whether commercially advertise or just advertise our personal lives, Twitter became this untamable animal to us old-time bloggers. We either jumped on the freight train and rode along, or we got ran over.

Blogging was on the down hill slope and being crushed under Micro-blogging’s heel. Us old-timer’s had to let go of the long-form and figure out how to use the short-form. Blogging was no longer where you spent most of your Social Media time. The micro-blog was how you ‘blogged’. And if you decided to blog, you utilized the micro-blog to let everyone know how to go read the long-form blog (sigh). And comments weren’t actually left  by human beings, they were automated by web crawlers, web scrubbers, spiders and any other nifty SEO tool people could create to do as little ‘work’ as possible to garner more visits and hits on their website. (Thanks Google)

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I wasn’t ready for that Micro-blog wave. It slapped me silly. I tried to keep up. I sank my fingers in every new product, every new service that toted they were the next best thing! Heck, I’m still doing it. During this frenzy of social media domination, my real life got REAL busy. I re-enrolled in school. I attended an RN-BSN bridge program and then enrolled in  graduate school to become an Acute Care Nurse Practitioner. All the while I was still swimming with the fishes. I was treading water posting my micro-status updates on the regular. I was still spreading my SoMe (social media) wings as far as they would expand. I spread myself so thin that I went from having quality conversations to no conversations. In my vain attempt to widen my audience I lost touch with the few people that actually payed attention to my small corner of the SoMe world.

As my ‘real life’ progressed with school, I realized that I missed a lot of those original conversations. During the changing of the guard and the passing of this new year (2013) I decided I would work a little harder at foster those relationships again. I came across a couple new faces and re-discovered many that I let fall through the cracks. During a brief period at the beginning of the year we tried to re-ignite some of the old conversations. We attempted to utilize Twitter but it failed miserably. It’s true when they tell you don’t try to re-live the past. They call it the past for a reason. I truly believe looking back on that failed attempt it was because we were trying to brush the dust off the ‘old blogging’ conversations, or at least the manner in which those conversations were created.

I even extended my wings (again) and tried to foster new communication on other social networks (Google +). All of which worked temporarily, but just fizzled out from my perspective. Maybe the fizzle was my fault, or my own doing simply because I didn’t nor do I have that kind of time to invest? Regardless of the reason I couldn’t shake that feeling of missing the old gang and wanting to reconnect.

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I decided that if I couldn’t foster or rejuvenate the conversations of old I would at the very least start nurturing my blogging skills back to health. During the whole MICRO-BLOG-COSM I went from little blogging – to no blogging- to little blogging- to no blogging – to micro updating my personal blog. I think I posted a worthwhile blog post every 6 months for most of the last 3 years. I’d love to blame lack of time, but it truly was lack of interest. Something I didn’t truly understand until recently. I had spent so much time trying to please the masses and communicate with as many people as possible that I missed the point of why I started this whole darn social media adventure. Better yet, I forgot the lesson I learned as a newbie blogger during those first years.


When I first started blogging I remember hearing about this guy who made a living blogging. All he did was blog, and that was his full-time job. He made a living posting words on the internet. I thought to myself, “WHOLLY CARP! Does anyone else know about this?? I started following him and many other ‘professional bloggers’ to gain insight on how I could do that!! I mean being a professional blogger had to be the ticket, and heck, it can’t be that hard right? (As you can see I’m still not a profeesiona blogger.. so uhhmm.. yeah.. it’s a lot harder than it looks)

After many failed attempts at advertising, catchy domain names, numerous blogging platforms, ridiculous blog themes,  and failed blogging niches I realized I needed to stick to my guns and just blog about me and what interested me.

So that original lesson took me about 18months to learn. This time around the “micro-blog-cosm” lesson I learned took almost 2 years. Geesh I’m a hard head. You cannot please everyone. And everyone will not hear (read) your words. But those that do are the ones you need to write for. They become your audience.

They have a name for what I experienced the past 2-ish years. It’s called Social Media Burnout. (The irony here? Mike blogged about this back in 2011. Hmm)

During my ‘burn out’ years I can’t say I fostered many relationships. In fact I probably ruined a few of them becoming the one thing I despised. I became an SoMe automaton. I was posting, sharing and updating everything that happened on every website I belonged to with no regard to the over-saturating annoyance I became by brow beating my followers to death.

That was the rub though. I can’t say I ‘knew’ any of my followers the way I ‘knew’ the old blogging crew. There was a handful of bloggers that I still passed here and there on the internets, but the relationships had changed. I think maybe we all crashed and burned in some way. Some of us dealt with it differently than others.And some did better than others.

Mike grew into a social media icon of sorts. He has paved the way for many physicians to introduce social media into their digital lives. Mike figured out a way to make the transition. He subtly metamorphosed from an anonymous blogger to an amazing Family Medicine advocate.

Emily was one of those bloggers that took the extreme route. She just dropped off the face of the internet. No warning. No event. No notice. Just poof.. gone. Literally a ‘virtual’ cleanse. While I’d love to transpire the events that lead up and past that the bottom line is she left and the internet just kept trudging onward.

And then she returned.

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Over the past several weeks to months I have been reconnecting with old and new bloggers, old and new nurses, old and new health care professionals via the social media circles. I’m blogging again on a sort-of regular basis. I stared using Twitter properly. To actually have conversations, or at least exchange ideas. Even if that means short brief conversations. The era of the automaton is coming to a close. I’m snipping away bit by bit of all the automation and getting back to real human beings existing on the other side of the screen (something I severely missed).

Somehow life has come full circle. During those first few years many of us used to proclaim “we should get together”, or “we’ll get together soon” or “Lets do a twitter tweet-up”. It was always that colloquial answer or closing remarks anytime you were chatting online. Well somehow the stars aligned with everyone’s hectic lives and I was able to schedule a meet and greet with the two legends I keep speaking of. I call them legends because they are virtual blogging icons in my world.

It was purely ‘last minute’ and total prep time was less than a couple weeks, but we pulled it off. Poor Emily had to make the farthest trek with a 5 hour drive while Mike and I traveled about 60-90 minutes. It was an epic meeting. It was exactly what the doctor ordered for my ailing social media life. It re-energized my love for blogging, and it solidified my opinion that some of the best relationships that were forged from blogging have no time limit on them. Seven years and a couple social media burnouts later and we meet in real life for the first time, and it’s as if we had known each other all our lives and just were catching up on some time missed.

Conversations flowed from topic to topic that spanned everything personally and professionally. We addressed some of the most interesting issues in social media, while at the same time laughing so loud and so hard at poking fun at each others quirky online presence.

We rehashed over the good ole times, and admitted that they were just that, good. And old (Mike does a great job of poignantly referring to Statler and Waldorf  in his blog post from that night). A blog post, I must point out he wrote immediately after our meet up ended – which was around 2am. Keeping in mind the poor soul had to rise and shine to leave for work at 5am for a full day. If that doesn’t speak of his passion for Social Media, I don’t know what would?

We agreed that we need a new strategy stepping forward into the future. Where will our social media lives go? What form and what shape will they take? Who will be a part of it?? Do we say good bye to the old and hello to the new, or is it possible to have both the old way and new way?

Maybe … just maybe.

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The next day two of us had a full day ahead after a night of minimal sleep (cough cough… not naming any names who got to sleep in).

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While I was attending a review course for my board exam, and my mind was swimming with content, all I could think about was the engaging conversation I had with my two very good friends the night  before. Here are some of the bullet points I jotted down:

1. Connecting the silos
2. New vs. Old blogging
3. Work harder at online relationships
4. Meet ups? IRL? Online? Hangouts?
5. Preventing SoMe burnout
6. Staying inspired to tell stories
7. Being held accountable online – no longer anonymous
8. Not everything is a ’sharable’ moment. The best ones aren’t.
9. Eliminate the automatons
10. What is real? What is not real with all things online.
11. Making time for online SoMe?
12. Have to live IRL to be able to tell the stories
13. Is the niche conversation the right direction? Is it the only direction?
14. I have become what I hate online
15. Do we have a responsibility to become leaders (online)?

All of which I plan on blogging about in the near future!

Stay tuned folks, I’m thinking big things are going to be happening. Care to tag along for the ride??

11 thoughts on “When IRL Imitates Social Media

  1. Okay, that’s it! I’m blogging again. I have so much to say and have felt so “blah” about actually saying it! Part of it is burnout, part of it is feeling sad that it’s changed so much (or is that just in my head?), wondering if I still “have it” and then realizing it doesn’t matter, that’s it’s a matter of telling stories and that we all “have it.” Thanks for writing this, Sean! :D

    1. That’s great to hear Kim!! You’re one of the old-heads that started this whole thing. Time to re-ignite the fire. I’ll be looking for your blog post. :)

  2. Great to read this – I feel like there is something in the air with all of us old-timey bloggers. I especially like the list at the end. “Staying inspired to tell stories” – it is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. I feel like as bloggers if we don’t get this right we might find ourselves losing our voices completely. Thanks for writing this. I am definitely inspired!

    1. Thanks Beth!! We old-heads need to stick together. It’s time we resurfaced and started telling our stories the way they used to be told, the way they should be told.
      I’ll be looking for your blog post next!!!

  3. Great post, Sean! You’ve had quite a ride with this blogging thing, haven’t you? Social media is like a wriggling pet- each time you think you have it in your hands, it tends to slip away! But, it seems like you’ve more or less got it! I love your blog!

    1. Why thank you!!!!
      You hit the nail on the head. Social media IS like that new pet… how about a fish?
      Darn slippery thing.

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