I'm discovering that there is all kinds of fun to be had at networking events.
In the last few weeks, I have attended two conferences, a tech launch, a "mingle" and a double-session Google Analytics course. There was wine to be had at half of said events. Clearly, the merriment factor at those events was exponentially higher.
Networking is so much more fun than it used to be, isn't it? Perhaps that's because while I am the best fake smiler you've ever met, I really don't enjoy it (not that you'd be able to tell) since a small portion of me is introverted. Honestly, who wants to wear uncomfortable heels and munch stale crackers with a bunch of stuffed suits eking out stunted smalltalk, all the while manipulating the conversation to create an opportunity for business card distribution? No thanks.
Lately, however, I'm finding that "networking" has refreshingly transformed into Geek Gatherings. First of all, geeks like wine. Expat geeks in Jerusalem like wine, anyway. So, apparently, do all the 70 year olds in my book club - I showed up to the first meeting with a box of chamomile and they collectively snickered at me. One of them asked me for pot. But I digress.
Last night was another in the series of events I have been attending recently. It was called a "social media mingle" - WTF does that mean? Apparently, it's exactly what one might guess - a bunch of bright, engaged, technologically savvy middle-agers splitting their time between alcohol and tweeting. I learned how to balance a wine glass, some hummus and my iPhone simultaneously. And I even handed out my business card. Life skills, baby.
There was intense debate (and a panel discussion, of course - every mingle needs a panel) surrounding what we can (and should?) be doing via social media to increase the engagement, awareness and dedication of Diaspora Jews (Jews who live outside Israel) to the State of Israel. How we can influence world opinion through our online presences. How we can expose American Jews to life outside the rockets, with the ultimate goal of intensifying their feeling of connection to the State and the Land.
I listened. I contemplated, as my introverted side is prone to do. I sipped my chablis and tried to focus on the strategies being proposed. Then it occurred to me: Wait, is everyone in this room an Ambassador for Israel? I don't remember signing up for that. I put on a name tag and used a hash tag but I don't recall accepting a new title.
In college, there were always the ones who were so proud of their culture/heritage/religion that they felt compelled to educate their fellow dorm rats on any number of traditions. The frizzy haired, permasmiling girl down the hall brought everyone apples and honey for Rosh Hashanah, explaining along the way and wishing everyone a Happy New Year, whether they liked it or not. I was introduced to Kwanzaa by a patchouli-scented outreach group called "Kaleidoscope of Kulture" (all the while thinking, we are at an institute of higher education - please spell correctly). These types are self-appointed ambassadors - they have taken the initiative (and responsibility) of representing their chosen "cause" publicly.
I have never peddled challah door-to-door. I don't expect that I will be starting now. I am uncomfortable with the assumption that by definition of living in Israel and maintaining a presence on social media, I am representing anybody but me. Is it too late? Am I a de-facto ambassador?
Are Americans forming opinions, biases and assumptions based on pictures of me and my kids at the beach, of BBQ's in the park, of snarky articles that I share simply for amusement's sake? If so, does that parlay into an advanced state of responsibility on my behalf, to refrain from airing 'dirty laundry' about Israel publicly?
I have 3 kids, 2 pets, a husband and a job. And no cleaning lady. I can't handle any more responsibility.
I am left to ponder whether I am a worthy ambassador. I don't fit neatly into a box or a label. I can paste a warm, welcoming smile on my face at the drop of a hat, but have consciously refrained from such a practice in the last year or so (I am discovering that it only serves those around me, and I am no longer willing to be a Japanese Hostess, aiming to satisfy the masses' insatiable and pervasive need for validation.)
Thank you for the wine and genuinely intriguing conversation. I am going to, however, politely decline the invitation to add this new role to my proverbial resume.