Many people think social media is a waste of time. Or if they don’t think that, they think that maybe there’s value in it, but they just haven’t made the time to really engage with it. They often associate it with the distracted teens sitting in classrooms or at restaurants, ignoring the world around them. Yes, teens are sometimes distracted by texting, Facebook, snapchat, instagram, and more. But eventually, maybe, they’ll discover that they can actually learn something from it.
Earlier this evening, I participated in a flurry of Tweets about Bridge, Euchre, and other old card games that it turns out many of us geeky types used to play in school. It made me smile. I learned something about a handful of people I’m following on Twitter, in the same way I might have if we’d been standing around a hallway at a conference. We’re planning to actually play the next time we’re all physically in the same place. So, connecting with people, on a truly human level, is something valuable I get out of social media.
Also, ideas. Many of these same people are people I ask questions of and get interesting answers. We have conversations about issues we’re all facing or we share successes (or failures) in the classroom. We share articles and resources. We sometimes discuss those articles (on our blogs if we need more than 140 characters). We’re learning together.
I’ve recently re-engaged with Google+, where I’ve joined a number of communities. While I still find Twitter provides more bang for the buck most of the time, I’ve been able to find resources, and get questions answered in many of the communities I’m in there, many of which are quite specific (where Twitter is scattershot when it comes to topics).
I don’t have to spend a huge amount of time with social media to get a lot out of it. Once you’re following a good collection of people, you can spend 1/2 hour over coffee every morning and see what’s new in the world. And you can just follow along. You don’t have to Tweet or post to a blog or Facebook or even Google+. I do think posting yourself is important once you’re comfortable. It’s a conversation, not a lecture, so putting yourself out there adds to it. Participating can help you think through your own thoughts about a topic. You can see how your ideas sit with others.
I also think social media can get you out of your bubble. I live in fear that I’ll become isolated and insulated and not realize that I’m in a rut. I think social media can let you see at a glance new tools, new strategies, new gadgets, and new approaches. And that can be refreshing. I try to keep my network varied while still having a core group of folks who share my interests and philosophy. I want contrary points of view and people from different fields. That can prevent me from getting in the social media bubble of having only people who are like-minded in my network.
Engaging with people on social media in my field keeps me excited and interested in what I’m doing. I get fresh ideas. I feel connected to people. And I feel like I’m contributing to something bigger than myself. I get a lot of that from my workplace as well, but social media offers a larger, more diverse platform. I’m glad it still exists, and I hope there’s still value in it (for me and for everyone) at least ten years from now (though we may be wearing special glasses to interact with it 🙂 ).