Stepping outside my comfort zone: "virtual coffee chats" with people I talk with on social media

I am about 10 20 meetings into my most recent experiment. And, so far, it is going pretty well.

What am I doing?

I am getting in touch with people with whom I chat online on social media (which, for me, means Twitter and the fediverse), and asking them if they fancy a short video chat.

I've sent a handful of people a message along the lines of:

Good afternoon! With apologies if this is really random DM, I know we've chatted on here a bit, and I enjoy your writing, so I wonder if you'd fancy a virtual catch-up / chat at some point? Nothing particular in mind, just saying "hello" to people I chat with from time to time, but don't know particularly well. If this isn't up your street, or it's a bad time, please do just say. Or just ignore the message - I won't follow up. Neil

I've been tailoring the messages, focussing on why I follow them / why I enjoy interacting with them, crossing my fingers, and hoping I don't get flamed.

What's it been like so far?

Nerve-wracking.

Honestly, getting in touch with people like this - and these are people I know, to at least some extent - is really outside my comfort zone.

Some many times, I've hesitated over the "send" button.

Will they find it odd? Worse, creepy? Am I intruding on someone's personal space / time by even asking. Even though I know who they are, what if they haven't a clue who I am?

But, in each case, I've tailored the message, tried to include enough "get outs" so that people can readily ignore the message or give a simple, even made up, reason to reject, and then I've (eventually) hit "send".

And... so far, so good!

For a start, no-one has said no.

And, even better, I've had about 10 20 video chats, and each one has been great. Fellow lawyers, fellow techies, fellow academics, fellow... well, a whole mix. And all over the world too - finding a good mutual time across timezones has been challenging at times, but I'm open to evenings as well as day time, most days, so we've found a way.

Each chat has been different, and each has been enjoyable in its own way. It has been a pleasure meeting so many people via video, rather than just chatting on social media. Some have been more serious discussions, some have been friendly "water cooler" type chats, some have been downright hilarious. Each has been fantastic.

Some people I knew better than others already. And, in one case, I cheated, and had a chat with someone I'd met before.

I'm so pleased that I took this punt.

It has also helped me develop my skills in asking questions (outside a work context), and encouraging people to talk about themselves.

What is this about / why do this?

I wanted to give it a go for a few reasons:

  • it might be fun: most people are genuinely fun and interesting.

  • get to know some people a bit better. Because, well, why not?

  • it might help me address some of my nervousness with "networking" (the people kind; give me a terminal and some network logs and I'm fine) - admittedly, at the cost of having to step out of my comfort zone in the first place, simply to send out requests / invitations.

What is it not about?

  • Dating or similar.

  • "Business development" / marketing. I hate "cold calling" with a passion.

Will you be asking me?

I've a few more meetings to set up or to have and, as this has been going well, I am likely to ask more people.

Perhaps it will get easier with practice.

Can I ask you?

As long as you don't want to sell me something, and don't want to hit on me (unlikely, I know), yes, absolutely!

I know it can be challenging, but if our paths have crossed in some way or we have some common interests, and you'd like to have a chat with me, please do just get in touch by whatever means you want. Genuinely, don't be shy.

(And this applies especially if you're a student thinking of becoming a solicitor, or you're a junior solicitor.)


Author: neil

I'm Neil. By day, I run a law firm, decoded.legal, giving advice on Internet, telecoms, and tech law. This is my personal blog, so will be mostly about tech stuff, cycling, and other hobbies.

You can find me (and follow me) on Mastodon and Twitter.