By Shashank Nigam

Three continents, three encounters, same story

Story 1, Los Angeles, early March 2010: Early last month, after a 22 hour flight from Singapore to Los Angeles, I was picked up by someone who works at Boeing, has a PhD in Aeronautical Engineering from Stanford, and an MBA from UC Irvine. In the six hours I had in LA, he introduced me to another very talented friend of his, who drove us to a vantage point from where we could see all of the LAX runways. We ended up spotting planes for over an hour.

Then we drove to the famous “In & Out” to spot more planes, before heading to a restaurant under the flight path of landing planes, for dinner. For a plane freak like me, this was like putting a kid in a candy store – all day long!

Story 2, Santiago de Chile, late March 2010: I had spent my first day in Santiago mostly sleeping in the hotel, as opposed to checking out the city. In the evening, I met with an airline industry veteran, who not only met me for dinner, but also for breakfast the next day, and we actually went hiking early in the morning to a hill nearby. All the while, sharing airline stores, start-up challenges and just learning about each others’ cultures.

Story 3, Kolkota, late December 2009: As my delayed train pulled in to the crowded Howrah railway station, this gentlemen who reminded me of a Harley Davidson fan, picked me up after waiting for over two hours, from 6am! For the rest of the day, he took me for a walking tour of the city I had never been to, then we tried local seafood with a Canadian lady, before more sightseeing. Finally he dropped me off at the airport after dinner!

So, what’s common about these stories? I met them on Twitter first.

All of the people mentioned above, I first “met” on Twitter, and these were the first meetings with them, in their respective cities. In Los Angeles, Zsolt Kiraly (@zkiraly) met me; in Santiago, it was Andro Lindsay (@androlindsay) who hiked with me, and in Kolkota, it was Sumit Roy (@univbrands).

To an outsider, these were strangers I was meeting. But due to our previous interaction on Twitter, followed by LinkedIn and emails, we already knew so much about one another that we could totally hit it off.

And these are just three of the many encounters I’ve had around the world. In Dubai, two techies came to see me off at the airport, and one showed me around the Emirates/FlyDubai HQ (@fahadosman). In Greece, one drove me up to Delphi, for a weekend, to check out the ancient city. In Melbourne, I almost got a balloon ride thanks to @falcon124 and in London, I was shown around by @StuartBarwood for a whole day! In Bangalore, Devesh (@blraviation) took me for the best kebabs I’ve ever had! And the list doesn’t stop there…

So what am I getting at?

Social media “we”b is about the real world, as much as it is about online relationships

If you think about it, almost all of our online interactions are rooted in the real-world. Personally, most of the over 1000 people I’m connected to on Facebook – I’ve met at least once in my life. And on Twitter, the over 4,000 followers I have today – I aim to meet at least once in my life.

I think Twitter, specifically, has allowed me to connect with like-minded people, with similar passions, who respect me for my ideas even before I’ve met them. And then when we meet, the interactions are at a different level altogether.

Just yesterday, I was hanging out in Toronto with Yash (@airceo) and learnt that we have very similar backgrounds – both have a tech education, and have a passion for aviation, and are born 15 days apart! Our conversations were so much richer due to our previous interactions on Twitter. I can’t imagine talking to someone like that at a cocktail party, especially the first time I meet him or her.

Twitter and other social media tools have helped me be inspired by people whom I’ve met over the last couple of years in my travel. And I probably wouldn’t have met them if it wasn’t for our online interactions, first.

So, keep the #FollowFriday tradition going!

For the unaware, every Friday, on Twitter, people recommend others whom they think their followers will benefit by following as well. It’s a simple way of expressing gratitude, as well as adding value to your followers. It’s through this practice a lot of people have followed me, and I’ve met them in the real world. And I cherish these relationships. So, let’s keep these going.

And thank you, to all those who’ve met me around the world (even those I missed above). And I look forward to meeting a lot more of you!

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