Later this month, September 27th, will mark the completion of 17 years as CEO of I had not given it much thought, but starting this past Sunday, my email inbox started filling with messages from business social media site LinkedIn. At first I thought they were being generated by spammers. They were largely generic; “So and So sent you a message”, and they only displayed first names, no last. I soon came to realize that they were legit, and that LinkedIn had posted my pending anniversary for this month. These were people simply congratulating me for the achievement.

I’ve received dozens and dozens of these emails, many of them with the default message LinkedIn provides, some of them customized and more personal. Some are from people I know well – many are from people I’ve never met. All of them are appreciated, however, as they reflect the well wishes of a broader community connected through technology and the common bonds of a unique and essential industry.

This really highlights the power of social media when utilized for the purposes for which is was designed. On an individual basis, through LinkedIn and other platforms, we have become a community of familiar strangers; people who might be personally unknown, yet who share something unique in common and therefore have a familiarity that, sans social media, would otherwise go unrecognized.

I am reminded of a recent exchange on our LinkedIn group, the Workers’ Compensation Roundtable. A new member posed a very specific question related to a file they were handling and where the injured worker had left the country. Numerous members came to his aid, each sharing useful and pertinent advice to his particular situation. None of these people knew each other, but they shared the common bond of experience and function, and were willing to distribute their knowledge for the betterment of their community. That is exactly how “social media” is supposed to function, and is a great example of a broader community of strangers coming together for a greater cause.

And it happens every day in the group.

It is an easy thing to forget in this current and unusual political year. Personally I have greatly shortened my Christmas gift list this year by openly sharing my political opinions on Facebook. Social media has a downside when it, ironically, becomes too social. Sites such as LinkedIn, however, can avoid that pitfall if people use it for its intended purposes.

Admittedly, that is a big “if”, as the lines between the various social media platforms continue to blur.

There is probably a much longer post to be written on this topic; one that focuses on the importance of celebrating commonality while respecting our differences, but that will have to wait for another day. I am just back from vacation and digging out of the backlog, but am entering my eighteenth year on this job with the same excitement and enthusiasm I felt on day one. It is great when you can enjoy the job you have, and on that front I am about the luckiest son of a bitch in the world. I just want to thank everyone who has taken a moment to celebrate the passing of another year with me.

And thank you for reminding me of the greater power behind social media done right.

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