Once upon a time, not so terribly long ago, our methods of communication varied greatly from what we have now. Pre-smartphone, Facebook, LinkedIn and even email (we’re going WAY back here), most of our In Real Life (IRL) interactions were originated by telephone, traditional pen to paper or sheer happenstance. Many relationships were culled much differently than they are now. Our instant gratification, constant connectivity lifestyle has sped up the relationship cycle monumentally, going from ice breaker to “nice to meet you” to “it’s so great to see you again” at what seems like a World Record pace.
There is no denying that it can be difficult to meet new people at times, especially in new surroundings or under new circumstances. However, the ways that we can meet new people have multiplied exponentially due to the technology and our ever-sharing lifestyle that many of us now surround ourselves with. MeetUps, TweetUps, chat rooms and too many social media mediums to list have given us a virtual water cooler that at one time was impossible to even conceive. No longer do you need to feel that you are the lone member of any given club when you are a Google search away from finding not only a local person with your same interests, but even a support group to perhaps help cope.
After a voluntary relocation from Vermont to Amish Country Pennsylvania in early 2008, my life was literally turned on its side. I went from a state that I knew, filled with family and lifelong friends, to an area that held approximately three people that I had met before. Most people take working at an office for granted, but when you think about it, your co-workers can end up being a second family and many become close friends. But when you work remotely out of your home office, you rarely have the opportunity to see the same people in any sort of frequency. Things did change for me when I was fortunate enough to be introduced to the Construction Specifications Institute – CSI – in early 2009. Priding itself on its members, CSI, and the Allentown, PA Chapter in particular, quickly became an adopted 2nd family to me, allowing me to see the same smiling faces with warm greetings on a monthly basis.
The more I got involved with CSI, the more it became an important part of my life. As the proliferation of social media, personal branding and social sharing became abundant, an extension of me became my tweets through my Twitter @EricDLussier. It did not take long to strike up minor conversations with a person that I now call the Pied Piper of the CSI social media community, Joy Davis, who tweets as @CSIconstruction. Having never met her, heard her voice, not to mention seen an image of her, I attended my first CONSTRUCT (exhibit hall only) in Philadelphia in May of 2010. I went a little out of my way to ensure that I met this person who, I was told by Mitch Miller (@m2architek), I would recognize due to the number of cameras that were hanging around her neck. Sure enough, in short enough time, I had the opportunity to meet and finally put the voice and the face behind the @CSIconstruction shield avatar. Fitting enough, she then took my picture with Marty Thornton, then of Foreman Group of Zelienople, PA who is the one responsible for inviting me to my first CSI meeting and getting me to join.
Our lives came together and quickly as that, our lives separated. I came to find out later that CONSTRUCT is Joy’s Super Bowl, World Series and Stanley Cup Finals all rolled into one.
Our paths have crossed a number of times since, including my chauffeuring from Wayne, NJ to Allentown earlier this year and now I can safely say I am very fortunate to call Joy Davis a friend. Our friendship may revolve around 140 characters at a time, but I think if given the choice, I wouldn’t want it any other way.
CSI is 130 Chapters strong, each with its own strengths and its weaknesses. From experience in visiting multiple Chapters, the one strength that each can boast is their Members – volunteers who take personal time away from their day to day grind to find and share information with other likeminded construction folk. Having the State of Pennsylvania as my territory allowed me to visit with many of the Chapters throughout the Keystone State. However, being heavily involved in social media, especially Twitter, allowed me to interact with more than those that I was just meeting in a Radisson conference room on a Tuesday night in Camp Hill.
Through the following years and CONSTRUCT conferences (2011 in Chicago and 2012 in Phoenix), the connections came from further away – @Dstutzman in NJ, @BaltoCSI in MD, @LizOSullivanAIA in CO, @JPeterJordan in TX, @SpecMonkeyNorth in CA, @kaitlinsolomon3 in VA, @CheriseSchacter in OR, @cliffordmarvin in NY and even one crazy Canadian in @PaulDGerber – all initially met or keep in touch through one medium in Twitter. While too many in society think it is all about celebrities talking about their lunch plans, a tremendous group of construction-field individuals seek, find and share information and laughs 140 characters at a time.
Even though Nashville will only be my third full CONSTRUCT, complete with education (the core of the conference), it is quickly becoming my second-family reunion. For I have friends in real life that I get to see – though not nearly enough as we all grow older and apart and then I have friends that I get to see IRL. Us CSI Tweeps may only get together once a year, but it has quickly become a group of people that I can’t imagine not knowing. They may only be an avatar 361 days out of the year, but for 4 days at CONSTRUCT, they couldn’t be any better friends.
If you are interested in attending, exhibiting or getting more information on CONSTRUCT, which is being held in Nashville from September 24 – 27, 2013, please visit http://www.constructshow.com