Humanising the digital age.

What #100Connections is teaching us about the value of real conversation with real people.

We live in an age of social media where connection is everything. The choice is ours to connect with business acquaintances, friends and family, or just follow those we’re interested in. All of these are, in some way, curated communities. But what would happen if you started a real conversation through an altruistic question to 100 people you would never otherwise have encountered? Moreover, what would happen if you connected them to each other?

I’ve been finding out over the last 14 days and although we’re just getting started, I’ve discovered more about myself and others than I ever expected.

The how and why of #100Connections has already been covered. I spent the last week or so working out who we all are, where we are, how I can provide support, starting conversations and, surprisingly, being offered an abundance of reciprocal support from people who have already done more for me -and each other- than many social media (and some real world) ‘friends’. In fact, I feel like I’ve known some of them forever.

I’ve now contacted and re-contacted all 100, which has resulted in two-way conversation with over 90 of them. After days of cataloguing amid mild panic that I wasn’t responding to people quickly enough (and discovering I had missed many, many Tweets), I created a map of the #100Connections — which is actually 101 when you include me- using Zee Maps, only excluding those who I haven’t managed to communicate with where there is no location information available on their Twitter profile.

Here it is:

100 Connections Map

You can find the interactive version with Twitter handles here.

Between us we cover five continents, yet at the same time there are members of the 100 in the same cities (and previously unacquainted). We have two with the last name Haas (unrelated) and such a diverse range of personalities, passions, skills and perspectives it’s untrue. It’s an amazing collection of contradictions, contrasts and coincidences.

I was encouraged by a tweet from one of the 100 to count the gender split. Gut instinct from the conversations and activity so far was that we were just over half female, but having counted, it turns out that we have 72 men and 28 women, which in itself says something of the spread of engagement and pro-activity across the group.

There are 4950 possible combinations of 2 people in 100.

The possibilities this opens up for us all are immense. As we’re already discovering:

Despite this being something I started, it’s developing a life of its own. The enthusiasm of the 100 is organically building a community – supporting, connecting, conversing, without prompting from me. There’s no suspicion, automation, spamming or sales, just genuine, human conversations. They are actively taking ownership of this and creating a collective identity as part of a real group. Although I had few expectations, I had fully anticipated catalysing any interaction. The natural –and rapid- way this thing is shaping itself and the positive benefits we’re all getting from it tells me this is wholly worthwhile.

What’s unique is the diversity across the group. Due to the relatively random way in which we came together, the commonalities are coincidental and differences unique. As a very active community emerges from this, it’s a very powerful, global collective that seems genuinely driven to do something together and above anything else, altruistically. ‘Collaboration’ is a word that’s arising again and again.

If Dunbar’s number says the maximum number of stable social relationships we can actively maintain is 150, then 100 connections is manageable, while being large enough to create real value. There’s a lot of talk about how and what we might do together. I’m looking forward to thinking on that more this week as I start working harder on the support I’ve offered. The one certainty as of now is that this is a worthwhile project.

Maybe we should make this ‘a thing’.

An altruistic social network where you connect uniquely with 100 others? Perhaps it’s time to humanise the digital age…

By Andy Swann on October 6, 2014.
Exported from Medium on July 15, 2016.