It had started off innocently enough. A friend and I were arranging to meet for coffee. We’re both introverts and appreciate the ability to arrange get togethers without the need to talk on the phone – Facebook to the rescue!
The other conversation was on G+ with someone I haven’t met, but with whom I share thoughts and links on the environment and sustainable energy. English is not his first language, so I like to think carefully about what I want to write so there are as few misunderstandings as possible, hence my style of writing is more formal and “correct”, with no slang. I need to concentrate for that!
I was doing ok for a while, but the toggling between links, people and social networks began to play havoc with my brain.
Was I arranging to meet for a coffee locally, or had I got mixed up and perhaps arranged to meet someone in a far distant land, complete with ice and snow, for a coffee in his hometown? Definitely time to call it quits!
It’s said (by those who say they're in the know) that it’s important for businesses, and particularly solepreneurs, to have a strong presence on line. The more you want to be seen to be an expert in a particular field, the more they encourage active participation in a range of social media settings.
But, let’s be honest about social media, it can be a whirlwind of aimless chatter and links to content of dubious quality that have the ability to distract us from what it is we want to do and achieve. It can be like 'Whistling into the wind'.
“They” say we should be on Twitter. I’m trying, really I am, to take Twitter seriously, to give it a fair go and make something meaningful of it. But, honestly, whenever I take a peek it feels like I’m opening a door and staring down a hurricane. It’s frenetic! I doubt would anyone notice if my meagre contribution disappeared. I’ve chosen to keep it though, for the links that come in, and of course when Adam Hills has done his Mess Around shows, it’s fun – now there’s someone who uses Twitter to advantage!
Personally, though, I sputter on, occasionally making tweets: Little reminders about slowing down, making time for exercise, uplifting sayings and mindful exercises. If anyone drops by they won’t be overwhelmed with a barrage of data or links. If the reminders help someone else to pause for a moment, then that’s great. If not, meh, there’s no damage done.
Linked In is my professional social media hangout. It is what I use for professional contacts, for catching up with ‘lost’ colleagues and seeing who is up to what in my field of Career Development. My Linked In groups are where I can ask for advice, share experiences, comment and interact with other professionals in my field. It's great for that.
I’ve used Linked In to assist some clients by encouraging them to revamp their profiles so it’s there as part of their professional presentation. It’s a good place for them to quickly add experiences and highlight achievements. Having a recent photo is important, and potential employers often check for consistency between your resume and your Linked In profile.
And then, there’s G+
G+ is the current bane of my life. It’s where I meet and interact with people who reflect my diverse interests.
Different clusters of interests = different circle.
It’s certainly not a time waster, because that would imply that it’s frivolous or petty. No doubt there are places there you can look at cute cats, diverting dogs and a whole range of well, yes, timewasters. But it’s also an amazing opportunity to talk to, debate with, grumble to, be inspired by, and encourage, people from many, many countries, from Iceland to the Ukraine, from India to Canada.
I wasn’t sure how to use G+ at first. I’d been invited to join back in the very early days, and recognised that it was different to FB, but couldn’t quite see how to use it. No family, no friends, and only one blog buddy – there didn’t seem to be much opportunity for interaction. I didn’t know how to find people, or what was expected. I wasn’t aware of any tutorials way back then!
Thankfully I’d filled out my profile with some useful information and someone who knew the ropes had filtered profiles for people with similar interests. He was starting a meditation hangout and invited me to join. Unfortunately due to the timezone difference I couldn’t make it, but suddenly I saw that G+ was a whole lot more than a FB lookalike, and with amazing potential.
Through that first contact with a ‘stranger’ a whole range of people with diverse interests emerged. Photography, art, astronomy, social conscience, science, blogging and the environment: I’ve met people I couldn’t have had access to in my normal life. I’ve been stretched, challenged, learnt about SOPA and all sorts of other things, all from the comfort of my laptop.
I enjoy the depth of interaction and that fact that an unsubstantiated comment could well be met by “Can you cite a reference for that please”. WOW! Because of the beauty and ease of use of the circles, it’s easy to keep interests and posts separated and relevant to my different interests - joy oh joy!
I doubt that I’ve explored much beyond the surface layer - maybe I never will. But if you haven’t had a look at G+, I’d encourage you to dip a toe in, spend some time acclimatising and see if it works for you. Remember to say hi when you do!
How do you use social media? What works for you?