Saturday, August 13, 2011

Thing 12: Putting the social into social media

This week's Thing is about the social aspects of social media. We are asked to discuss the advantages and disadvantages, whether it helps us make contacts with people we wouldn't have had contact with normally, whether we used social media before CPD23 and whether we will continue to do so, and do we think it really helps foster a sense of community.

I definitely see advantages to being Facebook friends with so many other librarians, sharing articles about library news, information on what's going on at their libraries, and programs they are doing. Twitter is a bit different as it's more one-sided - you can comment on others' Tweets, but there are no threaded conversations that you can see all at once like on Facebook.

I did use social media before CDP23 and will continue to do so, unless I suddenly become overwhelmed by the huge news feeds and run away to live in a yurt with only a notebook and pen. Which sometimes feels like a distinct possibility. Probably the biggest drawback of social media is that there is so much of it and it is so easy to be in contact with an overwhelming number of people and keeping up with the feeds sometimes feels impossible and not worth the effort. I don't want to spend every moment of my free time staring at a screen reading people's updates. I have books to read!

Although I'm already on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter (which I rarely use), and I've been on and off the Publib email list for years, there is still something missing. I have always wished there was a good online forum for librarians, with discussion boards where you can post questions about programming, collection development, displays, whatever. Like Ravelry for librarians. There used to be a forum at lisjobs but it was very focused on job-hunting and career advancement. Nothing else really works the way a good discussion forum does.

Social media hasn't really put me in contact with people I wouldn't have otherwise, but it has helped me stay in contact with people I've met. For instance, two years ago when I attended Library Leadership I met a whole slew of amazing and interesting librarians who I mostly haven't seen since, but we all friended each other on Facebook and have stayed in touch in this way. It's not the most meaningful communication, but it's easy to send a message to someone if I have a question and I do like hearing about what's going on at their libraries when they post about it.

The thing is, I don't really find social media especially social. It's a lazy way to do social. Sure, it can provide access to information and people you wouldn't have otherwise, opening up a whole world of ideas and opinions. But it's so easy to be overwhelmed, so time-consuming to sort through all this stuff for one nugget of helpful information or a new perspective. And it doesn't replace being social in the world. Following someone on Twitter isn't having a meaningful communication with that person. Social media doesn't replace the librarian dinners or cocktail hours, or the conferences. Social media does sometimes help foster a sense of community, but on a fairly shallow level.

No comments: