Many people worry about losing connections with people as they they make their FIRE escape into early retirement. Social connections are necessary in the workplace and people sometimes fear that they will be sitting home alone watching cable news when they stop working. That might have been the case at one time, but social media has undoubtedly been a game changer for millions.
I’ve long been on social media personally and also had responsibility for social media engagement on billion-dollar brands when I was working. I believe they have added a lot to our culture – some negative, but mostly positive. For the most part, people participate to the degree they are comfortable with it.
For me, social media has added a lot to my FIRE lifestyle as it facilitates relationships across time & space with so many people. It augments relationships with close friends I see a lot, enables ongoing connections with people I don’t have the opportunity to see very often, and introduces me to new people with which I have common interests.
My oldest brother even met his soon-to-be wife on Facebook. They had friends in common, although I warned her he may actually be a Russian spy! 😉
Here are 15 ways social media is enhancing our FIRE lifestyle:
- FOLLOWING PEOPLE – Mostly I use social media as a way to see what friends are up to. We are all busy and it’s fun to see what’s happening with their family, jobs, and cool things they are doing. These online connections don’t replace offline connections, but they certainly improve them – especially for folks that live in other states that you don’t get a chance to see very often. Since I retired, I’ve had the time to ‘find’ & engage with more old friends.
- PASSION GROUPS – I’ve joined a number of diverse affinity groups on Facebook that became friendships offline. I belong to a number of car club & road rally groups and a number of LEGO groups – especially since I stopped working. They are great places to share hobby information/learn. Two weeks ago I joined a busy vintage LEGO collectors group online (with members from around the world) and today I found out one of the other guys lives in our neighboring town.
- CHILDHOOD FRIENDS – We moved around a lot when I was a kid, but despite losing touch with people for 20+ years, I’ve reconnected with friends in other states from grade school, junior high, and high school. I’ve had more time for this now, than when I was working. My best friend from junior high was just here for the Super Bowl in February. We connected over Facebook and met up for breakfast & the big game when he was here in Minneapolis.
- SHARED GROUPS – I’m the Alumni Association Rep for my High School graduating class and manage a Facebook group that features alumni news, updates from the school, and 1980s reflections. It’s fun to stay in touch with so many people and each post gets amazing interaction.
- ORGANIZE MEET-UPS – People often let you know about events they will be at on social media. I met up at with a number of friends at events I ‘checked into’ last year on Facebook. I found a friend from HS at a MN Twins game last year & we grabbed a beer together, I went to a ‘Hot Wheels’ race for Adults at a local brewery when a buddy ‘shared’ it to my notifications, and I found a couple friends ‘interested’ in the same concert we bought tickets to this coming weekend. Facebook is an especially good place to find interesting, daytime, weekday events when others are working.
- UNEXPECTED OPPORTUNITIES- Last fall, an old college friend posted pictures of helping a buddy with the corn harvest in Iowa. He was just sharing out the work him & his buddy were doing. We chatted about it online, he talked to his friend, and 24 hours later I was driving a giant, red combine through an Iowa cornfield myself! Now his farmer friend is a friend of mine on Facebook too. Having even a small, but timely, glimpse into someone’s life can certainly unlock unexpected opportunities.
- TRAVEL – A great new Facebook feature allows you to ask for recommendations that your friends have for an area you are going to visit. They can ‘pin’ restaurants, museums, and hotel recommendations as replies to your ask. I also like seeing the posts from friends when they are on vacation. Better than seeing pictures when someone gets back, I can watch their itinerary unfold in real time. It gives me new travel ideas and know who to chat with for more insights.
- CHARITABLE CAUSES – Many people use social media to share information about causes that are important to them or activities they are sponsoring. I’m involved with our Metro Zoo and keep friends connected to our events through Facebook too. It brings people together when they learn about organizations others are involved in and personalizes the good work that people do for each other.
- PHOTOGRAPHY – I love taking pictures (usually just with my phone) and seeing pictures people share online. I don’t spend a lot of time on Instagram, but it is an amazing gallery of fantastic shots. There is a ‘OnlyInMN’ feed that features terrific shots of nature and landmarks around the state which is truly inspiring. Since I’m a car guy, I belong to a couple of car groups that have weekly photography challenges that I like participating in.
- LOCAL & WORLD NEWS – I’m a newspaper lover, but the same articles now come over my Facebook feed and are easier to access where ever I am at. It’s bad for their business model as I rarely buy the paper anymore. Like most people, I look at sources with a critical eye but love the immediacy of seeing what’s trending. While some think of social media as only headlines, double-clicking through stories gives a lot of detail. The other value-add of reading these through social media is the online comments and seeing how my friends are reacting to the same story.
- IMPROMPTU CONNECTIONS – Last month my wife and I were driving through NC and I posted about the beautiful snow that seemed to follow us from MN. An old friend saw we were in NC and invited us over to visit her & her family and enjoy some amazing smoked BBQ two nights later. If it weren’t for social media, we wouldn’t have recognized our sudden proximity. We would have likely driven right through her NC town without ever even knowing she lived there!
- POLITICAL DISCUSSION – Some people don’t like political posts and others love them. I set up a separate Facebook feed from my personal page as a political outpost and share articles I like and discuss issues. The comments & exchanges with others effectively challenge your beliefs and likewise help you articulate what makes sense to you and why. We haven’t solved the world’s problems yet, but it is fun to try!
- MORE POLITICS – I have two friends that are involved in MN politics. One is now State Party Chair for the GOP, one is running for MN State House this fall as a Democrat. After not seeing them for 5 years – and never talking politics with them since I’ve known them – we found this new mutual interest through social media and I’ve gotten personally involved in some political activity for the first time ever. Social media kept us connected until this passion area brought us together in person.
- BEHIND THE SCENES – I love it when people post pictures from interesting behind-the-scenes experiences they have. A former colleague competed in the Winter Olympics. It was amazing to see the event through the eyes of an athlete. Another friend was invited to the White House for a State Dinner and even met with the President & VP in the Oval Office. I posted during the Super Bowl and chatted/replied with people during the game.
- NEIGHBORS – In MN, you don’t see your neighbors very often in the winter except as they zip by bundled up in their cars. Still, social media allows you to quickly connect on neighborhood issues and help each other out. Many neighborhoods have set up dedicated feeds for their neighborhood – we haven’t done that, but but we chat regularly with our neighbors through social media nonetheless. Since my neighbors know my wife & I are generally home during the day, they can easily reach out to us if they need help with something.
Not all of these activities are exclusive to being retired, but I certainly have more time to benefit from them now. I’m not sure how many hours I spend on social media overall, but I am not surprised to see that the average user (globally) tallies over 135 minutes a day between Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Snapchat.
With that amount of use daily – and over 2 billion people participating worldwide – it is easy to say that I’m not the only one who has found a lot of value in the platforms. I can honestly say they have added to our FIRE lifestyle in a tremendous way. How about you?
Image Credit: Pixabay