Vicki McLeod.

Vicki McLeod.

#Untrending: ‘I follow you on Instagram’

I am reminded of the power and promise of the Internet.

I recently spent a Saturday afternoon at a local hair salon. To keep me company while I had my hair cut and coloured, I had my smartphone, and old-school, a fashion magazine.

As I leafed lazily through the magazine, a darkly beautiful young woman took the seat beside me. I noticed first her grace as she sat, and then her outgoing energy.

She is vivacious and happy, chatting with her hairdresser, filling the air between us with little stories. Out of the corner of my eye, I admired her hair – long, long, long dark hair – and straight, where mine, left to its own devices, is a short pale unruly mop, fading blonde laced with grey.

We smiled politely, as we caught each other’s glances. By now, my head is wrapped in foil, and my attention is caught by a photo of a summer hat in the magazine in my lap. I realize I have the same hat and am delighted to snap a pic of it with my smartphone and post it to my weekend Instagram Story, #hashtag: fashionista.

Instagram Stories is a popular feature of Instagram that lets users post pictures and videos that disappear after 24 hours. Stories can be saved and repurposed and filters, geotags, and stickers can be added to enhance them. Followers comment directly and privately making stories a powerful way to increase one-to-one engagement and grow online relationships.

Instagram remains my favourite social media platform. It offers a clean, image-based feed that is all about the pretty, pretty pictures.

I took a moment to broadcast a short video clip, foils and all, and returned to my magazine.

My neighbor looked up at me and said, “Do I know you?”

I’ve lived in Maple Ridge a long time, and writing this column along with my work in media and public relations, speaking, and writing brings a certain local celebrity.

I look at her enquiringly, and she says, “You’re @vickimcleod. I follow you on Instagram!”

It is moments like these that remind me of the power and promise of the Internet. I am filled with joy to accidentally meet Elizabeth Mazzei in person. She is Maple Ridge-based and has a gorgeous Instagram feed that is beautifully curated and full of health, wellness, and clean eating tips, along with regular inspiration. She is @exodus_wellness online.

I should have recognized her long dark hair and vibrant presence. I have followed her for some time, enjoying her positive stories and fun-loving approach to wellbeing. In person, Elizabeth is exactly who she appears to be online.

Too often, people project an image online that is inconsistent with their actual personality or approach.

Meeting offline can then be a disconcerting experience.

Elizabeth and I had immediate common ground, and finding ourselves side by side at a local salon means we can further our relationship offline.

This is the true magic of social media, bringing us together through shared interests, helping us get to know each other better, and connecting us across the world or across town.

Vicki McLeod is an author, TEDx speaker, and award-winning entrepreneur. She is a business and personal coach and consultant.