Before I came back into Libraries and just after my return I had a very large and very supportive online group, they were based all over the world, form Australia to the US to Asia and Africa, we had a basic interest in common but beyond that we were just chatting and helping each other get through each day and week, some had dependants others had long, hard or no jobs. We chatted whenever we were online and had much fun, but I noticed as I got more into the online group I had less and less real life contact’s until I wasn’t going out and my day was spent sneaking online or waiting impatiently for time to go online.
I do like social networks but I am aware that for me they are an addition and must never be a replacement for real life links, They can help keep links and contacts alive, they can add depth and value to your work and friendships and keep distant ones closer. They are a means to an end not an end in itself and while they have a lot of value they are only a tool like the majority of the Things have been to use as much or as little as suits you.
Being so remote I do find that social networking helps keep my professional awareness up, I was at one time the only qualified, employed council librarian for nearly a hundred miles with one academic librarian in the next town and a few retired and one self-employed one in the whole of the county. We all know of each other if we needed help.
Drawbacks to social networking is the vast differences between situations, There are very few Librarians in the same situation as me and even my colleagues are different. This led to limited help and only those who also use the same network’s as me, e.g. Facebook, yahell, etc. Also the hardware I had has changed and some would not let me in to some chats or networks, while others ran fine for me but not others.
I have been following The CPD23 and have made some new links though it and will hope to keep that up, I am aware that I could ‘friend’ everyone but never know who was who or why I had them in 2 or 3 years’ time! I have added a few new people to my networks and found a few new networks, I will be adding more as I get to know them through blog or RSS feeds etc.
I did use social networks for work before but wasn’t sure what is the best and the sheer number available needed me to be helped through it, and that is the joy and best of CPD23 for me. I plan to keep using and developing my own skills long after this has finished and I shall be redoing this in a year or so’s time to refresh all these skills and to help me re-find any lost aims and interests!
Final question is the easiest and the hardest, my opening paragraph about my obsession with online group and not real life shows that I found a community there, the problem for me was if the Internet was down I was bereft and as it wasn’t any work side I didn’t keep up with the work I needed to do. Yes you can foster and keep a community alive but it takes commitment that you must put in to get out. It is easier to not bother if you have never looked a group of people in the face than if you know they are sat in a hall without you and wondering what has happened to you today! Tomorrow is my favourite craft groups’ monthly meeting which I missed due to holidays last month and I can’t wait to get in and share new things and ideas, and take fresh baking and have fun.
Social Networks are good and can help and keep things alive, but nothing beats a good old sit and chat, face to face. Body language makes up so much of our input and emoticons don’t fill the gap J.