There are a million reasons why I avoided social medial, but high on the list was that I’m a relatively private person. Social media (as the name so aptly implies) is the opposite of private; it invites you to share every thought, every moment, every photo, all the time. Not only did I feel funny sharing my own thoughts/ideas/moments, I felt downright voyeuristic seeing the lives of others. I mean, did I really need to know what people were having for dinner, where they went on vacation, or what award their kid just won? Was that any of my business?
Second, I felt I had nothing to say. That little box on Facebook asking what you’re up too, or what’s on your mind, I never had a good answer. Uh, I’m up to nothing, obviously, because I’m on Facebook. That little box made me feel inferior, as though everyone else in the world had something fascinating and/or insightful to say except me. Or else they were just better cooks than I was and not afraid to show it. Either way, it was a contest I didn’t feel I could win, so why bother.
Third, I avoided social media because I knew from a previous brief foray that it was possible to spend an incredible amount of time being voyeuristic, with nothing more to show for it than knowing what someone else had for dinner. In other words, Facebook had the power to suck me in and make me do things I never intended—like spend an evening feeling inferior.
It’s not you, social media, it’s me.
Fast forward to today. I am nothing if not open to feedback and suggestions, so at the behest of people much smarter than myself, I dove back into social media and hoped for the best. I started with a website, since that didn’t really count as ‘social media’ in the first place, and therefore I (rightly) figured it might help ease me into this new reality of sharing and being shared with. Next came Facebook, which I reinstated without fanfare while silently apologizing to Mr. Zukerberg.
It wasn’t you, Mark, it was me.
Then the final frontier: Twitter. Luckily I have teenagers in the house who gave me a tutorial on #'s and @’s -- accompanied by copious eye rolls of course, but at least I got what I needed. Then a moment of panic—what does one say on her inaugural tweet? This felt worse than a blind date, so I Googled how to do . Hey, I didn’t work as a research assistant for nothing.
Now, for the past several weeks I’ve been ingesting daily doses of social media and I’m here to tell you my fears were both founded and not. Founded because it does take up a lot of time, what with the urge to check, double check, then recheck, being hard to resist. (Is there such a thing as a Twitter Diet, because I think I might need to go on it?) And also founded because it does seem weird to know what my aunt had for dinner, or that my acquaintance from high school is traveling to Alaska with his mother (hi Jon).
But there have also been some unexpected surprises.
1. Reconnecting with old friends – I'm talking about those friends from high school that you aren’t sure why you ever lost touch in the first place and then meet for lunch and you’re immediately 17 years old again, only with better clothes and taste in restaurants.
2. Reconnecting with old employers – which might sound weird unless you know my old employer and then you’d know why I was excited to be back in touch.
3. Resources – I am amazed how much information flows across Twitter and how easy it is to curate the subjects that are of value to me. I have read dozens of insightful articles I never would have unearthed on my own.
4. Sending a thank you – so I geeked out yesterday and tweeted a total stranger who authored a great book I had just finished reading. ( I was madly in love with some of his sentences and just thought he should know. So I told him. And he said thank you. And I said no, thank you, and he said no, you made my day. And that made my day. All within the space of three minutes.)
5. Having an outlet – I never knew how many funny things my kids were saying until I started paying attention in order to have something to tweet. (My 14 year-old tells me this is technically illegal but I tell her this is not a democracy it's a monarchy, so get in line.)
6. Funny Videos – I refer here to the foul mouthed robot, upstairs neighbors, and cats taking bubble baths. What’s not to like about laughing so hard you cry at least twice a day?