This is an anecdote about the importance of putting yourself out there, not being shy, and not acting like a d*ck on the Internet.
I grew up shy. I was in at least two stage productions a year from the moment I went to junior high, but introducing myself to people or confronting people was nearly out of the question. It's probably part of the reason I gravitated toward post production - a lot less talking to a lot fewer people, generally. Over the years, I kind of grew out of it. But being an introvert and avoiding speaking to people for fear of burdening them with your silly concerns or saying something stupid always lingers.
Basically my first instinct is NOT to go running up to strangers to talk their ear off in a social situation.
I've been a member of the COW for few years, but I lurked for a few years before that (shy, afraid of saying something stupid). My first year at my first job out of college, I spent almost all of my downtime on the COW forums reading about others' mistakes and learning a lot about Premiere and FCP7 and After Effects. Turns out, the power users that know their stuff are regular contributors to the community. Not just on Creative COW, but also across the Internet on their own sites and social media. I ran into the same people a LOT, and they taught me nearly everything that was important in transitioning from being a student to being a professional. And they didn't even know me.
I've been on Twitter since 2007, and the Twitter post community really came to life in 2009 or 2010. I was always aware of myself when I was talking to some of these power users. They're just editors, but you don't want to act like an idiot in front of someone you respect right? Even if to them, you're another random person.
Then came NAB 2012 and face to face interactions. By then, I'm sure some of these people I held in high regard had an awareness of me simply because we'd crossed paths online fairly often. But we didn't KNOW each other. We'd never met. And they weren't going to hunt ME down. So one of my goals for my first NAB was to introduce myself to a small list of important people to thank them for assisting anonymous internet users like me.
As an introvert, it's definitely not easy to walk up to a relative stranger and speak to them. It's not like I have massive social anxiety either, so don't give me too much credit. But still, it's a little uneasy for most people. But it's got to be done, so I made a mental list of people I wanted to say hello to and found them. To my surprise, most of them not only knew me, but they were the friendliest people I met. I've said it before: Twitter is a great ice breaker. If you're worried about saying something dumb, you're already ahead of 99% of Twitter users, so just go for it.
I've tried to be an active member of the post community online and locally. I'm honest and opinionated, but in measured ways. I probably take more than I give from our community, especially on the COW forums (and usually in the form of a Google search for a long-answered question) but I always try to be respectful. Internet tough guy syndrome sometime makes a person feel invincible; then you go to a conference or user group meeting and realize all these avatars have real people behind them. Real people that are worth knowing.
Anyway, the point of this story is that I recently accepted a video editor position with Biscardi Creative Media! I wouldn't know Walter without the COW and Twitter, and he absolutely wouldn't know me. There's almost no crossing of paths between Indianapolis and Atlanta. I attribute this awesome new opportunity to putting myself out there (online and in person), not being shy, and not acting like a d*ck on the Internet. And also probably some aspect of editorial talent…but mostly not acting like a fool.
It's something that's worth keeping in mind when the forum discussions get heated, maybe.
And definitely worth noting when someone says "Social media? Psh, I don't have time for that life-wasting stuff!" Guess what? Social media is just as inevitable as the cloud and death and taxes, and it's an important tool. Not just for networking, finding jobs and providing an introvert's buffer zone, but mostly for developing REAL friendships.
So expect some COW blog cross-over beginning this summer!