Despite being fairly active on various social networks I have to confess that I’m quite selfish when it comes to blogging and Tweeting. Despite following about 260 people on Twitter and 10-15 blogs by librarians via Google Reader I write my own, original stuff far more than I comment on the content of others.
As a Librarian with a Life, one of the timestretched (no, it’s not a real word but it is a Divine Comedy song and if it’s good enough for Neil Hannon…), it strikes me that I’m creating a lot of work for myself here. There are a number of blog posts that discuss how to make the most of Twitter but one that really struck a chord with me was this by The Wikiman. It advocates the importance of regarding Twitter as a conversation tool rather than just punting a random thought out into cyberspace and hoping that someone, somewhere will see it.
This makes sense. Why spend ages wracking my brain for interesting/witty/wise/controversial things to write about when I can simply read something that someone else has written (which I do anyway) and spend an extra minute or two writing a comment? I could then pat myself on the back for participating in a conversation, make someone else feel valuable and popular and put it in my Revalidation portfolio. Job done.
So why don’t I comment more often? The first excuse reason is that on Twitter it’s hard to fit what you want to say in 140 characters and you don’t want to clog up someone’s stream with a six-part diatribe on something you feel passionate on. Google Reader is brilliant but I do find myself skimming much of the content, thinking ‘Ooh, that’s interesting’ and then switching off the laptop to watch The X-Factor. It makes me a consumer of content, rather than a participator in it.
There’s also the fear factor to consider. What if I say something and it’s the comment equivalent of making a joke at a dinner party that no-one laughs at? Or worse, what if everyone thinks I’m a pathetic simpleton? On occasion, I find myself disagreeing with something that I read and have a long discussion with the angel on my right shoulder and the devil on my left as to whether I should be nice and leave well alone or nasty and instigate a virtual plate-hurling argument. The upshot of this is that I generally manage to talk myself out of writing anything at all.
There are undoubted benefits for getting involved and engaging with the conversation though. I started LWL six weeks ago and I’ve already recruited a co-editor and ‘met’ a number of people through Twitter that I would like to meet up and have a drink (or three) with in real life. My follower count on Twitter is now far higher than my Tweets deserve. I almost got involved in a campaign…then stopped myself when I realised that I couldn’t add anything to it. I feel more engaged professionally. I don’t feel like I’m wandering down the high street in my pyjamas, shouting random thoughts on librarianship to passers-by any more.
I’m making a conscious effort to make the leap and participate and I’m now doing this reasonably effectively on Twitter. Most of the conversations I get involved with aren’t actually about librarianship – recent subjects have included: winter boots, the Labour leadership contest (the lesson here? Don’t get involved in political Tweeting after a stomach bug), whether Phileas Fogg was a real person or not (don’t ask), the X Factor (of course) and the merits of dancing librarians (must never, ever post links to those You Tube Videos). It’s a step in the right direction though.
I need to get better at commenting on blog posts. I read so many interesting things and I really need to stop absorbing them mindlessly and start using them as a catalyst for my own thoughts. I need to put aside the sneaking suspicion that everything I say is stupid and instead focus on the fact that bloggers like receiving comments on their posts…as long as they’re positive and/or constructive. I’ll try to keep the hissy-fits to a minimum.