Putting the social into social media

So, I originally thought I’d said all I needed to say about social media with Thing 6. But when I really got to read Claire’s explanation of Thing 12, and Jo’s response, I realized that this post is our opportunity to think about social networking beyond the utility of specific tools. While the tools can help us find people and keep in contact, it’s really the people that matter!

Perhaps it seems contradictory for an introvert to discuss “putting the social” in anything, but like woodsiegirl wrote in Thing 6, I have found that social media is essential to my networking efforts. Even The Atlantic is talking about how technology has created a “Golden Age for introverts,” so perhaps I really am on the right track.

Social media is great for networking…

In my involvement with social media, I have experienced most of the benefits Claire quoted from Debby Raven:

  • Better communication between individuals who may or may not have the chance to meet otherwise – I ramped up my Twitter usage in preparation for the SLA 2011 Conference. Reaching out to people I hadn’t met prior to the conference led to more in-person conversations!
  • More collaborative working space – I haven’t had many occasions to use online collaboration tools yet, but recently activity has picked up on the Wiki for a committee on which I serve.
  • Building online communities, which can then turn into real-life communities – I’m hoping to see this in action soon! We’ve recently grown a Twitter list of Indianapolis-area librarians and will hopefully be planning a tweetup in September.
  • Easy access to other fields of the profession – Social media isn’t making it any easier for me to find my niche. There are so many interesting librarians and libraries out there! I’d say #libchat is probably the best example of how I connect with a diverse array of librarians through social media.

I was already pretty active with social media prior to beginning CPD23, and will continue to stay engaged for the foreseeable future. While the tools were already familiar, this program has certainly helped me reflect on my involvement in a new way. I’m learning to be more intentional about how I use social media, especially when it comes to building relationships. It’s easy to share updates and read news from other people, but there’s more to gain from the harder work of conversations. I’m thankful to CPD23 for providing some inspiration in that regard.

Also, if it weren’t for CPD23, I would have never connected with so many international colleagues! I’ve also “met” at least one other Indianapolis-area librarian I didn’t already know. Bring on the tweetup!

…but it’s not perfect.

As much as I love social media, I can see a few disadvantages worth noting. First of all, staying informed and connected can be overwhelming! I haven’t gone as far as Lis-Britt in declaring an anti-social week, but I can understand the temptation to unplug. While visiting family in Iowa over the past weekend, I was far less electronically social than usual. I maybe checked my e-mail and Facebook twice a day, and I completely ignored my RSS and Twitter feeds. It felt good at the time, but it has been tough getting back in the groove.

This leads me to another potential disadvantage, which is simply that we may rely too much on social media to communicate. Unlike the proverbial tree falling in the forest, I know for certain there’s a lot of noise on Twitter even when I’m not listening. It’s futile to go back and read everything, so I just have to hope that nothing too important happened. My RSS feeds help with some of that, as things stay there until I’ve read them (or at least marked them as read). Although I know there’s no way to read everything or talk to everyone, I can’t help but wonder what I’m missing.

On a related note, I think we also take social media presence for granted. It’s easy to forget that others aren’t necessarily active on the same sites with the same frequency that we are. And I’m not just talking about my mom, who likes to comment on my Facebook posts months after the fact, I’m talking about our patrons and colleagues. Everyone has different preferences for social media, and it’s impossible to maintain a truly active presence everywhere. How do we make sure our less technologically-inclined colleagues don’t feel left out? How do we make sure our messages get to the right people in the right place at the right time? And how do we balance our social lives with our social media lives?

What do you think?


3 Comments on “Putting the social into social media”

  1. Katharine says:

    I like your point about the difficulty of getting information to the right people at the right time with social media. From a service provision point of view for example: getting bank holiday closure messages to users via twitter is hit and miss – you don’t want to keep re-posting the same message and annoying those who get it multiple times, but you also want to maximise your chances of getting the message to as many people as you can. Of course what you are really hoping for is the viral element to kick in and for them to retweet and tell each other – but in reality students retweeting library information is not a common thing.
    I know thats a slightly different topic to what people are discussing for Thing 12 – it’s just that’s what came to mind when I read your comments on timing and what people might be missing.

    • Nicole Brock says:

      I know it was a slightly different point, but I think it’s an important part of the conversation about social media. I haven’t figured out the right balance of what to post where, or who to follow where. Duplication is annoying, but so is missing out on valuable information. I’m mostly glad there’s competition and variety in social media, but there’s at least a small part of me that also wishes we could all just agree on something!

  2. Erin says:

    Hi! So this Tweet up, since I have more than 140 characters available to me here…. By suggesting it, planning seems to have fallen for me, which I am fine with…except that I am TERRIBLE at planning things! I didn’t even plan my own wedding! The other problem is i’ve never been to a tweet up, so I don’t know exactly what they entail… what i’m trying to say is… will you help me?? :D It sounded like September 10 worked for a lot of people… which is only 2 weeks away at this point, but still might work. do you have my email? erin(dot)milanese(at)gmail HELP! Please and thank you. :)

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