Connection. That’s the word of the year.

We live in a hectic, digital, social media-fueled world. Our days are filled with messages, content, shares, and the occasional meme. It’s no wonder that many of us forget to stop and connect with the person on the other side of the smartphone. Consider this: when was the last time you asked yourself, “Who is the person behind this retweet?” You might have 2,000 friends on Facebook, but what impact do they have in your real life? If you saw them on the street, would you even stop to say hello?

Simply put, how connected are we to the numbers and words on our screens?
 
This year, in an effort to celebrate actual connections and interactions rather than numbers and metrics, I decided to embark on an experiment: responding to the ever-popular, Facebook birthday greetings.
 
Think about it: friends, loved ones, and everyday acquaintances take time out of their days to stop and wish you a happy birthday. Sometimes the messages are lovely and profound; sometimes we let them go unanswered and, in some cases, unread altogether.
 
So this year I read and acknowledged every message--all 183 of them! Over the course of a month (yes, I replied to a few each day so I wouldn't be overwhelmed), I made connections that led to conversations, and something wonderful happened. It made my days better and impacted my real life. Here are a few things that occurred:
 
I reconnected with a former client, which lead to a new business partnership.
 
I am reuniting with a high school friend after 30 years.
 
A friend mentioned that she missed me and I realized I owed her a visit. Now we have plans to connect.
 
A friend left a very moving and personal message and it truly made my day brighter.
 
I discovered that the meditation group I started 10 years ago in New Jersey is still going strong even though I am now living in California.
 
Simple connections led to positive outcomes and it has me looking at my social media with an entirely new perspective. If my birthday experiment has you feeling inspired to find meaningful connections in your own social media, consider trying these three things:
 
1.)  Always read a comment someone leaves for you. A simple “like” can signal that you’ve read and acknowledged their effort. Ignoring a comment can put a bad taste in someone’s mouth.
2.)  Keep the conversation going. Responding to a comment with a question will keep you engaged with your friend. You might even learn something about them you didn’t know!
3.)  Don’t be afraid to clean things up. If you don’t know someone, it’s ok to unfollow or unfriend them.
 
Finding a connection to your social media is simple. It doesn't take much time or effort, but the reward you’ll get back is so much more meaningful!
 
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some messages to respond to.