A walk. There's a large, deep hole in 21st Street where the city is diverting either a sewer or water line. One block is closed, and there are big machines and lots of fencing and barricades.
I stopped to look down the hole, and so did a guy out for his walk. We shared what we each knew about the hole and he, being an architect, wondered how much the project was costing us as taxpayers.
Another man pulled around the barricades in his car, stopped and asked us if he could help us. We all chatted. It turned out that the guy in the car had recently bought a derelict home in the block and was looking for an architect. I went on with my walk, leaving the men to exchange cards.
Another walk. Captain Buzzy's, a local coffee shop, posts flyers and notices in its front window. Stopping as I always do to check out what's happening, I learned that someone is starting a new magazine to focus on Richmond's dogs. Aha! An opportunity for a freelance writer! I wrote down the info, and now we're talking about it.
The flower shop. During my book thing in Martinsburg, W. Va., I was stationed in Bells & Bows on Martin Street. There I met the owner, Charles Spalding, and a few members of the Lady Appleseeds, a nonprofit community service group. Among them, I learned much more about their community than I'd gathered on the Internet.
Connections. I met Lorraine Meade last year when Tom and I were in her mosaic studio and saw a notice seeking an apprentice. I became that apprentice. Meanwhile, in her life she has since taken a job with Advertising Concepts, which publishes several magazines. Through her I found out that the company was seeking writers; I applied, and now I'm about to be given my first assignment from them.
Now, notice what these various events have in common: They were all offline. Sure, there were some uses of the computer involved - mostly email after the initial contact - but no one met anyone by hanging on Facebook or tweeting. These are the social events missing from "social media."
They are also only a few small observations. I wonder how many potential connections are missed because people are texting in elevators instead of talking to their neighbors, because we're chugging away on solitary treadmills instead of getting out on the streets, because we're having things delivered instead of walking into shops.
"Social" media, indeed. Put down that smartphone. Step away from the computer. And welcome to the real world.