Take a look at this short video.
It really spoke to me. Connections are so important. Watch the video again and look at the different emotions on the faces of the folks. Some think it's a joke. Some are just happy-go-lucky. Others genuinely needed the connection and were glad to make it.
Now take the idea of connecting and turn it virtual. Social media has made it so much easier to connect with others. Many people can attest to the life-long friendships formed because of connections made through social media (be it Twitter, Facebook, Nings, etc). What is so unique and fascinating is that many times, these people don't meet in real-life for an extended period of time. Take my good friends Shelly Terrell and Tom Whitby for example, I didn't meet until almost a year after we found a friendship through our creation of #edchat. There are countless others I have had the honor of meeting like Kyle Pace or Nick Provenzano or Bill Ferriter or Kelly Tenkley, so many to name.
The point is social networking is less about networking and more about social. I encourage educators (and others) all the time to use Twitter. Many people know my thoughts on that. There are so many great resources out there waiting to be found and you can get them any time you want to.The people that you "meet" and the relationships you form can be life-changing. But the only way that happens is to move from lurking to to participating, contributing, reflecting and conversing.
Twitter isn't the only way that happens. Other places like the EDU PLN or Classroom 2.0 where asynchronous conversations take place. Or in live, on-line learning environments like the Reform Symposium where people gather from all over the world to learn and grow with each other.
The point is, we can't go through our professional careers alone. Well, we can, but what fun is that? And how fresh is the content in our classroom that we are teaching students? And how are we learning and growing to be better? The connections that we make help stretch our thinking, open doors to learning and so much more. But it's hard to do if we don't jump in or we just stand in the crowd.
So take a risk like the folks in the video.
Go out and hug the bear.