Last night I got to hang out with my family for a little pre-Christmas celebration. It was my brother’s Mother-in-law’s 80th birthday party. It was pretty important for me to be there, not only to help Pauline, a sweet and charming lady, celebrate this milestone day, but also because this is the first year that I won’t be spending Christmas Day with my immediate family. This was my last chance to see them all before I head out West tomorrow morning. Oh, I’ll still be having a great time, but I’ll be with my other family this year (hubby’s parents and sisters).

We all headed out for dinner at my co-Aunt’s stunning country home out in Carleton Place (a 25 minute trek from Ottawa). I call her my co-Aunt, because we are the only Aunts to my two little nephews (and we’re both named Sue). It was a crazy, noisy, chaotic, chatty, loud, laughing, boisterous evening, as most of our family events tend to be. Everyone was talking at the same time, the kids were running around using the whole big old house as a jungle gym, Dad was giving haircuts to the men (that’s a story for another time!), and we were all feeling thankful and fortunate that we could be together on this cold wintry night, with the food and the wine and the happy times. We were sharing and connecting and communicating. But want to know the craziest thing of all?

Not one person was online.

We spend a lot of time out here on the Internet trying to figure out what all this social media stuff means, and it’s possible that the answer is right in front of us and we just can’t see it. The problem is, we get so wrapped up in the tools and techniques and etiquette that we can no longer see the forest for the trees.

The truth is, social media is nothing more than an extension of that which we already know. In other words, everyone has the ability to be successful with social media. Why? Because we do it everyday, only in an offline sort of way. We do it when we go to work and interact with our colleagues and customers. We do it when we call an old friend on the phone just to say hi. We do it when we get together to celebrate with our families.

It’s called “social” media for a reason. It’s not called “keep to yourself and sit in the corner not talking to anyone” media. It’s called social media because it’s social. And we, as human beings, are inherently social animals. It stands to reason then, that communicating and sharing and connecting would be second nature to us, no?

When people who aren’t involved in social media look at it, they see a plethora of tools and an abundance of content and it’s completely overwhelming to them as to how they are going to decipher it all. But it’s kind of like the family dinner. The signal to noise ratio at the average family dinner is very high, as is the signal to noise ratio out here on the Web. At a family dinner, it’s mostly noise. But the signal is there, you just have to listen for it. And in the end, amidst all the chaos, there’s the calm of knowing that just by being there, listening, and contributing, you are valued.

As you gather around the holiday table with your families this year, consider this – we are all social beings. What we’re doing out here on the Web is merely an extension of what we are all already completely capable of. It’s just bigger now. The dinner table has a lot more chairs around it.

Happy Holidays!