I’ve never been a great one for New Year’s resolutions. In fact I often think that the New Year is not a good time to give things up or start a new regime. However, I’m going to make an exception this year, and it’s all about social media....
2011 was the year in which I really embraced online technologies. I had dabbled with various technologies for a long time prior to 2011 but over the past 12 months I have really got hooked in. The ease with which online services can now be accessed has been the key factor in my increased usage. Having internet access from my PC, laptop, iPad and smartphone means that there are now very few places where I can’t engage in online activities. Consequently I can take advantage of storing and accessing files online (using DropBox or Google Docs), managing photographs online using Picasa, using an online notebook (Evernote) which I can access from any device, using a social bookmarking service (Diigo) and downloading books and newspapers to my iPad and/or smartphone. This is all in addition to the things I have done for several years, such as managing emails, calendar and contacts from any device via an Exchange server, and downloading and listening to music on my smartphone. I have to confess to being a bit of a sucker when it comes to gadgets and technologies and I’m really interested in new ways of working which take advantage of online services. However, I’d like to think that I’m quite discerning in my choice of technologies, and I will generally only commit to new stuff if I can see genuine benefits in terms of efficiency, or rewards in terms of enjoyment or personal interest.
What about social networking services such as Facebook and Twitter? I’ve had a Facebook account for a couple of years, and in that time I have posted maybe only twenty or thirty times. However, I do look at Facebook almost every day just to see what friends and family all over the world are up to, so whilst I don’t contribute much to Facebook, I still value it as a connection with people who are important to me. I also have a Twitter account, and during 2011 I really got into Twitter in quite a big way, looking at Twitter streams several times a day. However, as with Facebook I would consider myself to be primarily a viewer rather than a contributor. Nevertheless, I can confidently say that I have gained a huge amount from Twitter over the past year, particularly in terms of links to useful resources or interesting articles.
Then there’s blogging. I am an avid reader of many blogs and I use Google Reader to bring them all together in one place. Yet I can’t really seem to maintain a momentum with writing my own blog (This is the first blog post I have written since June 2011). I have managed to keep it going whilst studying courses for the Open University’s postgraduate programme in Online and Distance Education but as soon as each course has ended, my blogging has also seemed to stop.
So it seems that I am what might be termed a ‘passive’ user of social media, who mainly ‘consumes’ rather than actively engages with the content. And yet I really feel that I could be getting so much more out of these services. In a strange way I sometimes envy my teenage children who interact so regularly and so freely on Facebook and Twitter with dozens of other people. Don’t get me wrong, I have no desire to spend half my life telling everyone on Twitter what I had for breakfast, but I would like to exploit the potential benefits of social media to a much greater extent. I have realised that, as with most things in life, you really only get out what you put in. So my New Year’s resolution is to make much more of an effort to contribute to the various media. My rationale is to try to promote and become part of a more active online community which includes but extends beyond my current circle of friends, colleagues, contacts and acquaintances. I genuinely think that there is a lot to be gained from being part of such a community. Specifically, I intend to:
· Use Twitter much more actively, by tweeting more regularly myself, retweeting others, seeking out more interesting people to follow and generating more followers for myself.
· Contribute to Facebook more frequently, by commenting on posts by friends and family and by posting myself.
· Maintaining my blog more effectively by setting myself a target of at least one blog post per week, and promoting the blog more widely.
And finally, just for fun, I have started an online photo-journal in which I am proposing to upload a photo every day during 2012. I’m sure most of the photos will be very boring, but it will be an interesting record of the year in pictures.
My Twitter name is @tonyburke1
My photo-journal can be found at www.blipfoto.com/TonyBurke