I was asked this question the other day and I thought it was a good one to explore in a blogpost.
For some people my constant tweeting, facebooking, skyping, emailing…. must be a bit overwhelming! And I know for a fact that the colleagues with whom I share an office think I’m a bit mad and waste all my time in these social networks. Well, (maybe) true – I’m a bit hyperactive, but I don’t see my activity online as “wasting” time. It’s actually really valuable to me, and it is only a reflection of how it has progressed. It was not always like that … it rather evolved to become what it is today!
At first it’s unfamiliar, then it strikes root – Fernando Pessoa about Coca-cola
As many people I know, I didn’t immediately see the value of twitter, I resisted to get on to facebook, and I only signed up to skype because I needed to join a group meeting online. For me these things need to make sense, add something to what I am already doing, and be easy to use. But ultimately, I need to try it for myself to see how it makes a difference in my work flow. Hence, I had to stick to it for sometime until it started to make sense. Needless to say, it took me a long time (Internet time, that is) to get to the super active stage I am currently at.
… OK, enough rambling… how do I do it?
First, I think it’s important to remember that working and participating online requires you to change the way you work… or at least, to acknowledge that the way you work is not the way your mother imagines you work. Working from 9 to 5 in academia is just unrealistic. Concentrating for long periods of time just doesn’t work for me. [To be honest, it never has, but, you see, now these networks “betray me” in that way as they make it visible though my participation. Do I care? Not really!]
When I am at my desk I work in 20-30 minutes chunks. That’s how much I can handle. In between those sometimes rather productive sessions I check my networks. If there is something I think it is worth a mention, I’ll re-tweet it, re-post it or like it. And then I go back to what I was doing. And I repeat this as many times as I lose my concentration. It helps me re-focus [strangely enough!]
I also try to share things I read – like newspaper articles. And sometimes I engage in conversation. I answer people’s questions, make a comment on someone’s tweet/post or try to crack a joke [not really great at it, but there you go!] The chatting is important. It’s the glue of any networked experience. It brings people together. And sometimes I also tweet/ post silly stuff cause life ain’t always serious. I give you access to a more social me in that way. [If you like it, it's altogether another story; I enjoy it!]
* I don’t distinguish between professional and private networks. They are all socio-professional to me. If I don’t want people to know something about me/ what I am doing, I just don’t publish it online. That is my rule of thumb, but that would be another post.
Build your networks
Building your personal learning network doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time to build confidence to post “your own stuff”. And it takes equal effort to build your network. It’s important to choose the people you follow because they will be the ones providing critical content. Collective intelligence is the hook to your participation and existence in these networks [in my humble opinion, that is]; the social interaction what brings it all together.
My network is very important to me because it provides me with an alternative platform to test my ideas, to build new ideas, and to learn from other people’s ideas. And their distributed location just means that they travel well … anywhere I go! Having recently moved to a new institution, new city, and for that matter, a new country, has meant that my then local professional and social networks are no longer within my reach. Being active online has somehow given me a sense of continuity that has eased my settling in. Moreover, as it often happens, I work in a section of the Institution that deals with a variety of knowledge areas, not all of them technological minded. This is great because it challenges my perceptions and balances my views. Yet, the online networks keep me updated about my own field and enable me to feed that back into my work.
Anyway, in short:
- Acknowledge that people’s working patterns are different and that their use of social networks during working hours is not merely a form of distraction. For me, it’s a form of breaking up a working routine, especially when I reach a point where “I am stuck”. Then I need a network break!
- Build up your network with people who can contribute to your knowledge from different perspectives. You can also follow people who you don’t know face to face. You’ll be surprised at how much they can contribute to your knowledge.
- Don’t judge it before you try it. Allow some time for it to start making sense.
- Have fun. Don’t take yourself too seriously, because no one else will. So post whatever, whenever it’s important to you. Sharing is a way to show you care!
Anything else you would like to add re: how you manage your networks and how important they are for you?