Those of you who know me, know I enjoy the odd tipple. You might also know that I live in the rather rough and tumble, slightly blue collar east end area of Toronto. Directly to the north are million dollar homes on a gorgeous ravine. To the south, million dollar homes on the beach. Where I live? Not so much.
But I love my little hood, or ‘the ghetto” as I affectionately call it. It has everything you could need. Two subway stops, schools, 24 hour grocery, hardware stores, restaurants, and doctor’s offices. And, my local.
My local is my local because, in the truest tradition of the term, it’s local. Like, ‘I can see it from my back deck’ local. Yes, that’s equal parts awesome and dangerous, but it provides my neighbourhood with a sense of community – a ‘place’ – where everybody knows your name. Our own Cheers, minus Coach but including Carla (except her name’s Patti). Last night I got to thinking about the odd little microcosm that is my local. And it struck me that it is exactly like social media.
Scammers And Spammers
Like social media, it’s full of sketchy characters. I mean, really sketchy. I know people personally who would never set foot in the place. But as a veteran ‘people watcher’ I love it. Whether I’m engaging with new people on Twitter, or making conversation on a patio, it’s up to me to be on the ball, eyes open, radar up when it comes to the scammers and spammers, con artists and creeps that I might encounter. Life experience and a finely tuned gut instinct rarely fail me, online or off. And I would hate to miss out on the fabulous because of fear.
Community and Connections
Social media has changed and enriched my life in ways that just a few years ago I would never have imagined. I’ve embarked on a new career, and have made an astonishing number of incredible connections online. During the last couple of months of personal upheaval, those friends have been out of this world supportive. I know there’s a core handful of you who would help me out in a heartbeat. That’s called community. And while I keep a healthy distance between where I sup and where I sleep, though they’re a stone’s throw apart, over the last ten years or so, I’ve also made deep community based connections at my local. Seriously, there’s no one more community minded than a guy who’s been working these streets for 40 years. I’ve also developed a handful of close relationships. Trust is a huge commodity in any community, online or off. Maybe more so in a sketchy dive bar. And whether I need a shoulder to lean on or someone *kneecapped, all I have to do is ask.
Musicians And Mobsters
Speaking of characters, what’s so interesting about social media are the people. You ‘meet’ people that you would never meet otherwise, whether because of where they live, or due to their offline social strata. Through my Twitter connections I chat regularly with industry big wigs, small business owners, bloggers, journalists, developers, and CEOs. I’m friends with people from Australia, Chile, Norway, France, the United States north and south, and all parts of Canada. My local, as a similar social petri dish, is not that different. I’m friends with artists, musicians, and film makers, construction workers and accountants, creative directors and chefs. I also know drug dealers and dope heads, members of the east end mob, and down on their luck old men with no family who are buoyed by a pint, a chat and a bit of attention. All of these people live in my neighbourhood, but there’s a slim chance I would have met them otherwise.
People and Perspective
Whether it’s social media or my local saloon, it’s that unique mix of people, from every level of society and walk of life, that keeps me coming back. I hear incredible stories of success and solitude, horror and heartache, life and love, remorse and redemption. Whether online or off, there are days spent cheering others’ achievements, or seeing one’s own life put in perspective – those “There but for the grace of God go I” moments. The bottom line is this: each and every person I meet, slightly sketchy or super successful, who impacts my life in the largest or smallest of ways, helps me become a better person. And on that note…who wants to join me for a drink?
*NOTE: I would never have someone kneecapped. But I could. If I really really wanted to.
I would love to know, aside from social media, when was the last time you engaged with someone who you probably wouldn’t normally in your day to day life? Did they impact you in any way? What was their story? Please leave your comments below.