The best social networking is face-to-face

Last (last) Sunday night I was in the Qantas lounge at Hong Kong airport and it was there that I got to watch, on TV, the Queen sail down the Thames as part of the Golden Jubilee celebrations. The banks of the River Thames were lined with hundreds of thousands of people, young and old. Many, including the man I sat next to on an EasyJet flight to London on Friday night, did not see the Queen nor did they see any of the boats, because the crowds were more than 30 people deep.

The festivities in London have shown that despite our growing dependency on the computer screen, our addiction to smart phones and our ability to ignore the warnings about the invasion of our privacy in this social media era, that deep down we still love to stand together in packed crowds and to be physically close to one another.

I like social media. I have re-connected with former colleagues through LinkedIn and I get to hear what my friends, who in live in different time zones, are doing via Facebook. But online time needs to be combined with offline time and perhaps that’s the reason why community activities are having a renaissance.

Last year Amy Saunders and I co-founded Lazy Sunday Cycle. We established this grass-roots community initiative, aimed at anyone and everyone who wants to ride a bicycle for fun, using Facebook. Our first event was a huge success. Far more people than we could have ever imagined came cycling. But most of our subsequent events were a disaster… you can’t host a bicycling event without bicycle riders! To be honest without Amy’s dad Dave, Rolf from East BUG, Bronwyn my opposite door neighbour and Raymond a dedicated groupie the group would have disbanded.

Unsure as to whether or not we should continue with an initiative we were both so passionate about Amy and I decided to have a sausage sizzle after our December cycle ride. Yes, a white sliced load of bread, some packs of Coles cheapest sausages and a bottle of tomato ketchup really was the Tipping Point’ for success!

People of varying bicycling abilities enjoy our bike rides but it was, and still is, the sausage sizzles that have created the community. After each bike ride people of all ages, demographics and nationalities talk, discuss, debate, share knowledge and lend a helping hand for cycle repairs. People have formed ‘real’ friendships that really are not possible through Facebook and children have been given the opportunity to play, cycle and socialise with children they would not normally meet in their everyday school networks.

Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter have transformed out lives. But the real reason that people turn out to see the Queen, even though they know they won’t actually see her, and the real reason that a loaf of bread and some sausages have made a cycle initiative so successful is because people want the buzz of being part of something fun and the serendipitous connections that social media just can not provide.

As for Amy and I, well we are both really excited that we are going to be hosting and leading a Lazy Sunday Cycle in Berlin on Sunday 1st July. If you want to join us – we would love to have you! – we will be rolling out of the BMW Guggenheim Lab in Pfefferberg at 10am. We will be back at the Lab just before 12 noon for the “Transformation Champions’ movie marathon and the keynote speech of the day by the amazing Chris Hines MBE.

Stay tuned!

Huge thanks to Tammy Forward for very kindly letting me use her photographs

TOMORROW: ‘Fab in the Lab’ – The most fabulous person in the Lab each day.

THEN: My awesome day road-testing electric bicycles, solar powered cargo bikes and electric motorbikes and Urban-e!