Thing 12: Putting the social into social media

I’ve written about my love for social networking in Thing 6: Online Networks. My absolute favourite social network is twitter and I can’t say enough good things about how incredibly useful it is for finding information and asking people to point me in the right direction, sounding people out about things, asking for and giving advice in an informal mentory kind of way and as a way of developing genuine friendships with great people. Without twitter, Voices for the Library wouldn’t exist, and without Voices for the Library, I wouldn’t have just spent the weekend in Oxford with a handful of folk who are now some of my Absolute Favourite People Ever, most of whom I’ve only ever met once or twice, but thanks to social networking, get to call colleagues and friends. Finally, after hours of twittering, emails and phone chats, I got to meet Johanna!

Adrienne, me and Johanna down t'pub

Other than the advantages outlined in the post for Thing 12, I’d say the main ones for me are the deliberate serendipity, as it were, of people mentioning things that are Very Relevant to My Interests, that I never knew I was interested in or didn’t realise there was an event/article about, and the professional acquaintances and friends I’ve made. Bethan wrote a piece for Information Today about the rise of the New Professional and covers the benefits of social media brilliantly (not just for new professionals, I must add):

The rise of social media has definitely been a factor in the New Professionals Revolution. While they’ve been acknowledged as a distinct group for quite some time (Facet published the New Professional’s Handbook in 1999, and will be publishing a New Professional’s Toolkit in 2012.

It’s only recently that New Professionals have become so visibly active in the profession.  Social media has enabled this in a number of ways:

  • Breaks down geographic boundaries. The simple fact of being a New Professional probably means that there aren’t many other New Professionals in your organisation, or your local area. Social media makes it much easier to find and connect with other New Professionals.
  • Breaks down hierarchical boundaries. CILIP’s past-president, vice-president, and CEO are all active on Twitter, where they chat to, encourage, support, and debate with info pros from across all areas and stages of the profession. New Professionals are welcomed, and their opinions heeded. They are counted influential enough to be named Library Journal Movers and Shakers. Social media has enabled professional mobility, and free and easy discourse between professionals at different levels.
  • Provides platforms for sharing and debate. New Professionals do seem to have quite a lot to say for themselves, and social media provides them with places to say it. They can share ideas and listen to those of others. They can be anonymous, if they like, or self-promote to the rooftops. They can speak, or just listen. They can find out about what it’s really like to work in other sectors, other countries, at other levels. It allows them access to hundreds of years of accumulated vicarious knowledge.
As for disadvantages, I know some people are worried about a possible clique. I don’t agree with them, but I’ve already written about that! I can’t think of any other disadvantages. We’re not going to forget how to converse in person (as long as there are plenty of IRL meetups in pubs :) ) and we’re not going to lock ourselves away infront of computers, spurning the physical realm. I have to say that I’ve not yet found that CPD23 has helped me make contact with people I wasn’t already in contact with or otherwise wouldn’t come across. I haven’t seen that much CPD23 activity on my twitter feed and I keep forgetting to check the hashtag, but there’s still time and I think that’ll change in a couple of weeks when I’m in charge of a Thing myself (eek!)
In response to the last two questions, if you couldn’t guess my answers – yes, I already used social media, I won’t be giving it up, and yep, it absolutely does help foster a sense of community!

Voices for the Library in Oxford