Saturday, May 5, 2012

To Tweet or Not to Tweet.....How Social Media Became My Friend

Tweet. Definitely Tweet....or Facebook....or Pin, Flickr, Instagram, Digg, Blog, or whatever you prefer from the wealth of options waiting to grab your registration, email, or address. It can be fun, helpful, and informative. As stated by its title....SOCIAL media is especially for the purpose of connecting with people, organizations, and/or content. Choose one (or two) and establish a comfort level. This is obviously just my opinion and one I have gathered from personal good experiences. There are plenty of reasons for using social media and plenty of reasons for avoiding it. I choose to use it daily and I'm excited about it! :-)



But why???
You would not be alone in asking this question or perhaps in the eye-rolling I get when I talk about using Twitter or using some techno slang relevent only to Facebook. I learned quickly not to ask certain people about social media or to talk about things I find interesting - lest I risk the generalized and unfounded disdain of those who do not know how to use media properly. I remember someone asking "What's with all the science posts?" in a tone I'd rather not comment upon. It struck me that not only had I found content interesting and informative, but I had assumed others would be interested. Since the content was also on the evening network news, I considered it to be relatively the same value. Still, I became more conscious of the types of posts I used on various media systems after that comment. I decided to post the more understandable and "user-friendly" ones on Facebook whilst leaving the nitty gritty hard core science posts that were über-specfic onto my Twitter account. There is some crossover because I am finding that I do indeed have several colleagues who appreciate, want to read, and can understand scientific articles even though they are also non-scientists. It's all in the decisions of what to skip over and what to read.


I have also experienced friends commenting that people using certain social media oulets need to "get a life". I find this particularly interesting because I actually do more, travel more, and read more than some of them ; ) One of my favorite things about the initiation of the Facebook ticker was to see other folks who professed not to use Facebook much or to play games, using it and playing games like mad. GOTCHA! One of the primary complaints that Facebook users have is that game players "spam" their feed or send them gifts. I am a Farmville nut myself, but I created lists specifically for my Farmville friends so most people do not realize I play the game. Most people now know how to block spammy posts or games, but they still do not have their privacy settings fully set. I recommend learning the system, even if it takes you days or even if you have to ask someone else for help. It will save lots of trouble in the long run.

Others, like myself, are addicts of one or more sharing systems with the world and don't mind posting all kinds of things ranging from the trivial to the educational to the silly. There is literally a universe of information and interests out there. For me personally, I began with Blogger all the way back in 2002 and then didn't use it. I re-visited it again in 2007. I began in earnest by using Facebook while I was in Milledgeville, GA and had about 35 friends. Then, it may have gone up to 45. I hardly used it and did not really understand why I was using it. Then, the social media revolution happened at the same time I moved to New Orleans in 2006. I gained friends on Facebook, but I still had not given over to Twitter. Gradually, I began to use Facebook to create events, attend events, read articles, re-connect with friends, and vent. As someone who kept everything inside and rarely felt like talking about things, this was a stress reliever! Now I've used Twitter for a couple of years and it has also completely changed my reading habits. I read a LOT more now than just two years ago. In fact, the only time I read more was in Graduate School or when I was a child (making forts in my room and reading all day long!) Granted, most of my article is online, but it's complete with pictures and more links for further investigating. I can safely say that using Facebook has reunited me with family I've only seen at weddings and funerals. That has indeed been a blessing! I can say that it has made me braver. I am more confident knowing I have read the news and because I am interacting with people more. I grew up under the mantra: speak when spoken to. It was hard sometimes to know that things i wanted to say were valid. I am much more connected to other musicians, organzations, and friends than I ever have been before. I now run six Facebook pages and have a blast doing it. It hardly takes any time for me at all and I have discovered that my graphics, organization, and publicity skills have become fast and successful!

I am also less prone to sinking into a bout of lonely depression because I can always find items to read or interact with people if I want to - even late at night. I can clearly remember my annual Christmas card writing fest. I would send about 100 individually-written and beautifully chosen cards with pictures and more. NOT A SINGLE RESPONSE. It broke me after a few years of going to all of that effort. As a shy child and teen, I had struggled to make these friends and connections and no avail. I was deeply depressed and considered myself "forgotten" for several years. I eventually used Social media to find others like myself and then re-connect and re-establish friendships.


I'm glad I made the commitment to using it. At first, I had the attitude, straight from the nay-sayers, that Twitter was stupid and all people did was post about their lunch or their pets. That may have been a phase and admittedly, I resembled that remark when I first began using the Twitter. Then, my posts matured and I began to learn how and why Twitter was so popular with academicians and scientists as well as famous folks. I began to follow NASA, its missions, conductors, symphonies, churches, and so much more. Then, I learned to retweet and to post links and pictures! It was a brave new world. Now, I'm still no expert, but I use Twitter more than ever before and I am interacting with interesting and wonderful people. I have also won contests and have been selected for two Tweetups (see posts below) so Twitter has been very good to me! "How did you get so lucky?" and my answer was "Twitter".


Also, each and every person on our planet is unique and all are worthy of dignity and peace. Try not to judge how others use or do not use social media. One person may have 3,000 contacts and they do not know them all, but they are using the site in a different way. One person may never use social media after they sign up and that is FINE, let them be! Another may post all of the time and that is also FINE, let them be! Find a way of dealing with it that does not involve criticism. Realize that for some people, social media has brought them out of introversion and into the light. Realize that others use it to cope, to rejoice, to mourn, to laugh, or to promote. Social media goes right along with our bulleted attention spans of today's global television, radio, and ad problems. At least it connects us even if it does distract us.

I would like to add that services such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Google+ are FREE. We choose to use them. I am guilty of complaining about changes etc. from time to time, but at least I catch myself in the act.


Lastly, once you begin using social networks, it can become addicting. Know when to turn it off  for the day. For me, I have my phone off a decent percentage of the time on weekends or times when I need some peace. I'd also advise not assuming that you know how much a person uses social media. It is their business and concern. There are some people who are as or more comfortable in the virtual and social media realm than with people in groups in person. I believe that is A-OK.

Be open, take risks, and I think you will find that it is worth it!

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