I’m naturally a bit shy. This can make social media a bit overwhelming: Am I really willing to share my thoughts and opinions with the entire Web?
You might argue that if I’m not interested in sharing my thoughts, I really shouldn’t become a journalist. And that’s true to some extent. But everything I write for newspapers, magazines and the like goes through one or more editors before it sees the light of day. And in all those cases, I’m reporting and writing about a specific story, not my own thoughts and opinions.
The scary (and awesome) aspect of social media is the ability to broadcast my relatively unvarnished thoughts. It’s just me, with no editors or publication acting as a filter. And that works for feedback too—anyone can comment or write back to me immediately.
I think this makes social media a really powerful tool. And these days, it can be very helpful professionally to have a social media presence. But I also think some people are naturally good at social media, while others have to work at it. And because of that, I think each of us has to figure out how ‘social’ we are.
Blogging – my first steps into social media
When it comes to blogging, after my initial hesitance I quickly started to enjoy it. I stopped minding the fact that anyone with Internet access can read what I have to say. Maybe it helps that I spend way too much time writing each blog post, until I’m sure it’s what I want to say…(for example, I’ve been working on this one for over three hours.)
Clearly that doesn’t work as well for Twitter. It’s a naturally far more casual and conversational medium. That’s why I tend to agree with people who call it a cocktail party. It does kind of feel like it, and I mean that in a good way.
There’s a lot of interesting people out there on Twitter whose unvarnished thoughts I would never otherwise get to hear. With some people, I find that I have more in common with them than I would have expected. Others I find kind of annoying and I stop listening to them.
Really, just like a cocktail party…
The Twitter party
That means I socialize on Twitter the same way I would at an actual cocktail party full of people that I don’t know.
Like I said, I’m a bit shy. If I was at a cocktail party where I didn’t know anyone, it’s likely you’d find me standing in the corner, beer in hand, listening to someone far more gregarious than me.
Maybe I’d nod if I agreed with them. Maybe interject with a story of my own. If I hear a really good story, I might go tell it to someone else. Or I might just hang back, and make wry observations.
That’s kind of how I use Twitter. Mostly, I just listen, and read other people’s Tweets and the links they take me to. Every once in a while, I’ll Tweet an interesting story that I read online, or reTweet something from someone else. Just like I’d pass on a good story that I heard.
On occasion, I might get particularly animated about something I feel strongly about. Then I might tell multiple people about it, just like I would at this hypothetical cocktail party.
To each his own
I feel like there are many people who can tweet far more often than I could, to many followers that they’ve never met. I don’t know if I’ll ever be like them.
For me, it helps that at the moment I know most of my followers personally. I find it easier to Tweet to people I know, just like I’d have no problem talking to my friends at a party.
Particularly as I meet more science journalists, I think I’ll follow more people on Twitter. And if people find my Tweets useful or interesting, they’ll follow me. I think it’ll just happen organically, and it’d be a mistake to force the interaction.
I’ll probably get more familiar with Twitter, just like I did with blogging. And I’ll get used to sharing more information with a larger audience.
But in the meanwhile, I’ll nurse my beer until I have something to say. And I’ll be happy to listen to other people talk/Tweet.
Does anyone else have any suggestions for me, or comments about their own social media experiences? And if this post has somehow convinced you to follow me, I’m @sandeeprtweets :)