Tuesday, 26 March 2013

The Surprising Effect of Being Social

Who knew one picture would start a friendship?!
At the time that I decided to create Velo Family Diaries, I knew that in order to share my message to a broader audience, I would have to increase my online presence. Up to that point, I had always been quite active on Facebook, but only with people I had met face to face at some point in my past, and my Twitter activity was mainly limited to sharing my Instagram photos or check-ins on Foursquare. After starting this blog, I created the Velo Family Facebook page, and have tried making a conscious effort to tweet more often. Thankfully, I have my net-savvy husband to help, who has already increased his online presence through Vancouver Cycle Chic, Velopalooza and The Church of Sit-Up Cycling/helmetchoice.ca. Together, we have delved into new territory, following people on the various social media outlets that live in other cities, provinces or even countries and sharing our story with those that have followed back. It has been quite an eye-opening experience, and I have been amazed with how quickly my circle of followers has grown online. Both my husband and I have connected with so many like-minded people we would never have otherwise, and had the pleasure of reading their stories.

There has also been a surprisingly positive effect of exposing myself and my family online. In opening up, being more visible, we have actually made some new friends we likely wouldn't have had the chance to without being online. From fellow Vancouverites to people moving to or new to the city, it has been so great to meet people who have similar lifestyles to us. Just a month ago, my husband took a random photo for Vancouver Cycle Chic, and within hours he was connected with the subject on Facebook and Twitter, and was making plans to meet up. Turns out, this gentleman, his partner and their son had just recently moved to Vancouver, and after meeting up, it was discovered they had once lived in Guelph, ON, the city we left to move to Vancouver. We had likely come very close to meeting up various times in the past having frequented some of the exact same businesses during our years in Guelph. Because of one photo being shared online, we suddenly have new friends with whom we have much in common.

Outside of personal connections and friendships being forged, my husband and I are apparently quite recognizable when we're out and about in the city. Just last Saturday, while on a ride along the seawall to take out cat to the vet, we bumped into several people who recognized us from Twitter or the blog. It's always amusing when we're travelling along, and suddenly hear someone call out "Hey, Bruntletts!" More often than not, we've never met this person face to face before, and almost every time we end up having a spirited conversation about something bike related we've recently discussed online, the latest Whitecaps results (many of our followers are fellow Southsiders), or even the odd compliment regarding my recent piece in Momentum Magazine. I can't help but find this new way of meeting people rather fun and exciting, because each person has brought with them some new experiences and taught me a thing or two about their own lives.

While I'm no stranger to the fact that some anonymity on social media is important for online safety, the surprising unintended effect of being as visible as I am is something I am welcoming. I have heard time and again from other adults that once you reach a certain age, and/or become a parent, it's really hard to meet like-minded people, and I would not disagree with that just from my own experiences. With the digital world, we now have access to a wide spectrum of possibilities, including connecting with people like us, or at least close to. So while I made the decision to express myself online in order to share my family's story to help others see what is possible as a car-free family, I am excited that in doing so I have managed to hear other people's stories and meet a few of them along the way!


  1. Thanks for this one Melissa. I've never met you or your family (although I think I've seen Chris out and about a few times) but would be sure to say hi if I saw you on the bike lanes or at a Caps game.

    Also, I love the blog. My wife and I don't have kids but I find what you're sharing inspiring. It's uplifting to know that I wouldn't have to give up my car-free lifestyle just because a little munchkin came along.

    It takes courage to put yourself out there, especially when you're doing something that isn't 'the norm,' but it's stuff like this that changes norms for the better. Thanks!

    -Alex Etchell

    1. Thank you, Alex! I'm always so happy to hear that in reading my blog we've helped people realize it can be possible to remain car-free even with the arrival of kids. Thanks for reading and look out for us out and about in the city!

  2. I just clicked over to this from the Momentum link on fb. What you wrote is just lovely. Sometimes having an internet presence can rattle the nerves, especially to folks like me who have not grown up on social media. But exactly to your point, it can also bring positivity and likeminded folks to your life - and those are good things, whether through the internet or in person. As I ponder my feelings of continuing my presence, and if blogging is on its way out or to stay, it is great to read your words. Yay for you! I think sharing experiences is one of the best parts of blogging and it is exciting when you connect those experiences with other people. In the early days of blogging, one blogger gave me advice on buying a bike, and in turn I advised another blogger on the same. It's neat to find someone out there who is into exactly what you are and share experiences.

    1. Thank you for your kind words! I don't know if blogging is becoming something from the past, but I'm enjoying it while I can. It has been a truly amazing experience and has opened many doors for me that otherwise I would never have known about. Happy riding!