The Greatest Gift the Internet Gives Us (and What’s So Great About WDS)

July 4, 2013

It’s nearly that time of year again, when thousands of entrepreneurs, digital thinkers and other creative go-getters descend upon Portland for Chris Guillebeau’s annual World Domination Summit. I’m en route as we speak, excited for an event I’m betting will be even better than last year’s.

Image: nerd with book

At least he’s not tweeting.

Many of the attendees at this conference have huge followings, massive and loyal communities that closely watch and participant in their work online. Yet when all of these powerful personas get together in person, about 85 percent are… wait for it… totally awkward and introverted.

It makes sense if you think about it. Introverts tend to be drawn to online work because it doesn’t require a lot of in-person interaction, and even if you’re not shy when you first enter this world, spending a lot of time with yourself and your thoughts behind a computer screen tends to make in-person events a little less comfortable.

While I love socializing in person one-on-one or in small groups, I find big events like conferences and meetups emotionally draining, and, quite honestly, I have to push myself to attend them at all. They do usually end up being worth the effort, which is why I venture outside my comfort zone to participate. Even when blanketed with awkwardness, in-person conversations offer opportunity to make a special connection you often can’t experience online.

What’s amazing is that these awkward creatives have figured out how to use the digital world to work around their introverted tendencies and let us see their true selves. They’ve allow us to discover who they truly are, something they might not have been able to accomplish without blogs and Twitter and Instagram.

The power of being vulnerable online

Take Chris Guillebeau for example. He’s the brilliant mind behind WDS, a writer who has created a community, career and life a lot of us envy. When you see him on stage at WDS, he doesn’t exactly exude stage presence; you can tell he’s not super comfortable speaking in front of thousands of people, even thousands of people who are enamored with his work. Yet you’d never know this from reading his blog and interacting with him online. Despite being an introvert, Chris has managed to build something awesome, an empire that reflects his deepest values.

There is huge power here. Letting ourselves be truly vulnerable, truly seen, is difficult, yet it’s what everyone wants as a reader, a fan or a friend — which is why it’s so key to success. (Click to tweet this idea.) We all crave that connection. And as creators and community builders, allowing that bond to form is what lets us all feel understood despite physical distance.

The worse of the human race uses this this power for evil: to deceive. They manipulate the digital world to become someone they’re not, often with malicious goals in mind.

But for most of us, the online prism allows us to become who we truly are, and who we want to be. It lets us show our real personality, the one we don’t feel completely comfortable revealing in person.

That’s what makes WDS so special. A lot of attendees will feel uncomfortable and awkward — myself included — yet we’ll also feel accepted, because our online friends already know who we truly are. Establishing that personality in the digital world first makes it easier to let it shine through in person. Which makes all the awkwardness a little less awkward and a lot more inspiring.

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    3 Replies to “The Greatest Gift the Internet Gives Us (and What’s So Great About WDS)”

    • Reggie says:

      Thanks for keeping it very real with this post! I have only communicated with some of the power influencers who typically attend the WDS via email and occassionally phone. I liked hearing you be honest that many people do feel awkward in person. I know what you mean because I consider myself a “social introvert.” I speak with lots of people and I can do it fine, but I have to force myself to do so and afterwards I need to recharge, alone. I think you’re right in that writing and creating and sharing is much easier now for introverts because of the Web. I hope you’re able to report on how WDS went this year when you return!

    • It sounds truly awesome, Alexis. As a fellow introvert, I can’t wait to bring the awkwardness to WDS one of these days (and meet you too!) 🙂

    • Val Nelson says:

      Thank you for writing this. I keep formulating a similar post after attending #WDS2013 but haven’t finished yet. I will be sure to link to your post.
      I found that naps were a key to surviving the summit, or any conference. I was super inspired and moved, and yet needed lots of recharging time alone.
      I often talk to my introvert audience about how the internet can level the playing field for introvert and extrovert socializing styles. You have captured this well. Thank you.

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