This post is part of 23 Things for Professional Development.
As mentioned in previous Thing posts, I am a big fan of social media. I continue to believe that social media has revolutionised communication, socialising and networking for us introverts – I quite like this (perhaps slightly tongue-in-cheek) article from the Atlantic talking about how social media has made this a “golden age” for introverts.
So, onto Thing 12, which is all about “the role of social media in building up networks and a sense of community”. The post has given us a series of questions to consider, so I’m going to hang my post around these:
Are there any other advantages to social networking in the context of professional development than those already outlined above?
The Thing 12 post lists collaboration; meeting people you wouldn’t have met in real life; networking across sectors; and establishing communities as benefits of social networking. I’d say that pretty much covers it – I certainly agree with all those points, and can vouch for all of them from personal experience. The only other advantage I’d add (and I appreciate that not everyone would see this as an advantage) is that social media allows you to present a controlled image of yourself to the world, with the stuff you don’t want publicised “edited out”, so to speak. Of course, this does rely on your being fairly careful with where, when and what you post online!
Can you think of any disadvantages?
Not really. I know some comment has been made previously on the potential for social media to create cliques, and exclude people who come to it later on or aren’t as active. I have some sympathy for this view, but to be honest I don’t really think it’s a problem. The new professionals “clique” on Twitter has been specifically mentioned as creating this kind of barrier, but my opinion on this is that if it is indeed a clique, it’s the easiest one to join I’ve ever seen! I’m not really interested in starting up this discussion again as I think all the arguments that need to be made have been, but if you’re interested I’d go to LISNPN and find the relevant thread in the forums. All I will say here is this: if you’re new to social media, and are worried about how you get involved, or that people will think you’re intruding, or that you won’t be welcome – really, don’t be. The great thing about social media is that it removes all the barriers to starting a conversation with someone. Really, all you have to do it dive in – it’s that simple. Sure, some people don’t always reply to messages, but that’s the nature of it, and not something to take personally!
Has CPD23 helped you to make contact with others that you would not have had contact with normally?
Yes, absolutely. I’ve made a lot of friends, many of whom I’ve now met in real life, through social media – Twitter in particular. Social media was also really useful in making new connections in Leeds and Yorkshire before I moved here from London at the start of this year – without it, I’d hardly know anyone here now!
Did you already use social media for your career development before starting CPD23? Will you keep using it after the programme has finished?
I wouldn’t quite call myself an early adopter (in terms of the “diffusion of innovations” model, I think I fit more into the early majority category), but I have been a heavy user of social media for some time. I’ve been on Twitter since Feb 2009, and I’ve been blogging since May 2009. I will definitely keep using social media – I couldn’t really imagine my life without it now!
In your opinion does social networking really help to foster a sense of community?
Yes, I think it does. I do agree that there is still no substitute for meeting someone face-to-face, but for making that initial contact – and getting to share ideas with people who you will probably never have the chance to meet face-to-face – social networking is invaluable. I share an awful lot on social media (some may say more than is wise, but I think that’s down to personal choice), and I do consider the communities I belong to online to be true communities. Social media has helped me on a professional level, and has also helped me through some difficult times personally. I’ve turned to my networks online on many occasions, and have got the kind of advice and support that I’d never have got through only personal, face-to-face connections.
This is an interesting reflective Thing for me. On the one hand, I think I’m already making pretty good use of social media so this is largely a thought exercise for me. On the other hand, I am aware that I tend to stick to my own little circles online, and am probably not using social media to broaden my network as far as I could. My action for this Thing then is to find 5 new people to follow on Twitter that I’ve never talked to before, and say hi to them; and to comment on one blog that I’ve never commented on before.