Debbie Reynolds' Singing in the Rain challenge has been tremendous fun, providing us with a great excuse for some real-world interaction with our fellow AR members.
But as I wrote that, I thought "wait a minute, a telephone conversation isn't really real world", remembering those times before the Internet when real world meant face-to-face. Now a chat on the phone is kind of an intermediary state, between inhabiting the same physical space and connecting on-line.
What is interesting is how real and solid personal interactions have become all along that spectrum. There are people we know from personally meeting and spending time with them, people we know only from on-line interaction - many of them here on AR - and, more rarely than in the past, people we have only ever spoken to on the phone.
And as it happens, we feel we actually know many of those from the last two categories pretty well. Nothing quite replaces physical interaction - our ability to interpret social cues from body language and word tone is hard-wired and hard to replace. In person, we can meet someone new and like them right away, based on an immediate read of those cues.
But we're developing new skills that allow us to make judgments about character and trust based on a completely different set of signals. The difference seems to be time. We might read a blog or FB post from someone new and like it, and then start to follow and interact with them. Over time, we develop a picture of who that person is and if the signals mesh, they become friends. And that friendship can be very real indeed - we'll share secrets as well as recipes and recommendations, and we'll feel like we have a true ally. AR seems to be a very effective environment for encouraging that, with both our personal and professional personas on display.
Debbie's challenge works well, because it encourages a deepening of our friendships, by extending our base of experience. It turns out that it's all personal and it's all real. And when we make that final step, and physically meet our friends for the first time, we're rarely surprised and usually delighted.