I recently began working with Erin as one of my digital marketing clients. It’s been such a pleasure to work with her and her team at Local Flames. Upon meeting Erin I immediately knew she would make a great interview subject. I hope you enjoy the post. TGIF!
Business owner, triplet purveyor, work in progress. Erin Oldham moved to Maine 17 years ago and is happy to wear fleece each and every day. Her new business, Local Flames, is all about providing a place for people to meet other awesome Mainers in a low-key, low-pressure, fun environment. Local Flames allows her to grow her reputation for throwing kick-ass parties (and strangely also utilizes her Ph.D. in equal measure). In high school, she organized parties for hundreds of suburban teenagers in northern Virginia on the street next to the CIA. Even back then, she implemented the same routines she uses for her events today: invite a diverse, unexpected group of people, force people to play charades and start the party with a good song (CCR’s ‘traveling band’ recommended).
Parties next to the CIA, ill-conceived post-divorce exploits, and authentic connections and actual real-life interactions
What was your first experience with social media?
Ok, October 2008, precisely 6 years ago this month, I was at my 20th high school reunion. One of the most most memorable things about that night was my friend Allison signing me up for Facebook. At the time it was something I had never heard of and had to be convinced to do. That was the start of it all. Actually, that was the start of not much since I am not entirely adept at anything involving social media. I feel I have gone from “getting” everything technology to having a 30 year old staff member hold my hand and looking at me with a wee bit of concern and sorrow as they guide me through simple social media tasks.
What do you like about social media?
I definitely appreciate being able to communicate easily with large groups of people. I love that someone can stumble across my material. It adds to that random nature of life which make things more interesting. I also appreciate being able to learn more about the values and lives of various pseudo- or peripheral-friends that I would normally know nothing about.
For my business, social media lends all kind of possibilities to expose and engage a large community in a discussion around relationships and dating and life. One key goal of my company, Local Flames, is to become part of the fabric of the community; social media is one critical avenue to doing that.
Local Flames is also all about authentic connections and actual real-life interaction. The irony is that social media is one of the most effective ways to communicate about our events. Through social media, we encourage people to get off social media and technology to meet people in-person doing something archaic, like hiking, amongst the trees, sans technology.
What do you dislike about social media?
One of my husbands, my rebound husband to be exact, apologized to me for lying continually during our 5 years, which I felt was sort of nice, until he mentioned he posted it on Facebook first. So that would be my least favorite use of social media. But he did have high engagement on that post so … all’s well that ends well.
My family now knows way too much about my life considering my blog lays out all of my ill-conceived post-divorce exploits over the last couple of years. I can’t say I love the messages my mom leaves on my phone psychoanalyzing my latest blog posts, wondering whether she contributed to my questionable decision making in the past.
My major disillusionment with social media is the strange sense of anonymity it gives people to develop intimate relationships with people they know not. And, the breakdown of manners and the inability to communicate directly and honestly with others. Developing the strategy of ignoring people and things you don’t want to deal with is harmful. My aim is to bring grace and ease back into communicating with others around dating, friendships and relationships. Little things like “No thank you” and “You are lovely, but I am not interested in a romantic relationship with you” go a long way. Honest, straight-forward talk with actual eye contact goes a long way.
How do you think social media has changed dating (or not)?
Social media has contributed to a level of impatience while seeking a perfect life that ironically, and not unexpectedly, has led toward intense dissatisfaction with one’s own life. We see those perfectly crafted Facebook posts (I would comment on the Twitter posts but I don’t understand them … at all), smiley photos of suspect people pairings and filter-laden pictorial representations of idyllic Sunday outings. People are catching on that it’s all marketing and we just need to live within our own imperfect lives. However, I think it contributes to loneliness and a sense of desperation to force a Facebook-worthy life.
All of this also translates into dating behaviors that are not so helpful. Ruling people out for the slightest imperfection or rushing into relationships. Going too deep too fast without giving life time to develop. And, most commonly, dating multiple people at the same time, trying to play the odds by keeping contingency dates on the hook.
In my mind, we have lost some honor and authenticity in how we interact with and develop relationships with others. We don’t give people enough of a chance or accept that getting to know people is interesting and worthwhile even if we don’t want to and won’t ever have sex or babies with that person.
What would it be like for you to disconnect from social media for six months?
It would be lovely. I disconnected from news about 4 months ago and it effected my life not one bit. I am really good at bullshitting so it has worked well to just occasionally smile and nod my head knowingly when someone starts talking about a major cultural or political event that I apparently should have knowledge of. It doesn’t require much. But I would miss all my little Buddha quotes that always seem to magically relate to exactly what is going on that day!
If you could only use three words to describe social media, what would they be?
Confining, extraneous, silly. Okay fine, how about “necessaryevil” and “iwanttobelieve”?
Is there a person or brand that you think uses social media effectively?
To be honest, I have absolutely no clue. But, I have been forcing myself to go to trainings and events related to social media to address my bad attitude. So, ask me again in a couple months and I might have an answer.
I want to thank Erin for taking the time to talk with me about her opinions on, and experience with, social media.
You can find Local Flames on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/LocalFlamesME
You can find Local Flames on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/localflames
You can find Local Flames on Instagram at: http://instagram.com/localflamesmaine