Erin Dorney

Blogging life & librarianship

Social networking: Be an active, responsible user.

with 2 comments

Image by m-c and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License.

I have been thinking about social networking websites lately. I think it’s because things are becoming increasingly integrated/cross-platformy. I wouldn’t say that this is a “manifesto” per say, but I’d like to talk a little bit about my philosophy on said sites.

I try my best to be an active yet responsible user. Let’s break that down into two parts, shall we?

I think it’s pretty important for me to have a profile on some of these sites. The age demographic I encounter most at work is the “millennial” generation, amongst faculty members, staff and adult learners. Even if the students never know I have a profile on Facebook or another site, I feel like it brings me closer to seeing their way of life. Which in turn makes me a better librarian because I can gauge their wants and needs more effectively. I can catch a glimpse of what issues are riling up the campus (based on student-created groups, pages and posts) and use this information in a number of ways. As the outreach librarian, I coordinate some of the library  events and exhibits – if a group of students create a Facebook page protesting/welcoming a particular guest lecturer, I can design something based on that interest. Heck, maybe we even have some of the visitor’s books to display, or could invite him/her to host a post-event debate in the library.  As a subject liaison, I teach some library instruction sessions – if I notice lots of students tweeting or commenting about a certain news story, I can pull that into my search strategy to try and keep their attention. It gives me a way to create connections between the library and student interests.

In addition to working with millennials, I am a millennial. I have already had three cell phone numbers in my lifetime and more ridiculous screen names than I care to share (Starbeam3? What was I thinking…). I would be on some of these sites regardless of my career because technology is something that is tightly integrated with the way I live my life. I use social networking to keep in touch with friends from high school, college and grad school as well as professional contacts, co-workers, and people I respect. I find support and knowledge in these connections each time I log in.

When doing anything on the Internet, we should try to be responsible. That can range from locking down certain profiles to protect your (and others’) privacy to limiting the frequency of your updates. I have recently found myself un-following Twitter accounts that were posting too many messages because I was missing posts from everyone else. It’s nothing personal and it’s not because the tweets were uninteresting or bad. I simply look forward to seeing a variety of information when I log in to Twitter – posts from my friends, recording artists, organizations and professional contacts all jumbled into one stream of consciousness. I guess this might stem from one of the traits of my generation – many of us enjoy multitasking and jumping from one thought to a completely unrelated topic. It’s exactly this reason that I don’t have separate Facebook or Twitter accounts (one for work and one for personal). It is an idea that seems foreign to me because my online identity is so closely tied to the one I display walking around every day.

Another aspect of responsibility that I am referring to here is the strength to know when enough is enough. A few years ago I deleted my Facebook account for approximately 6 months. I needed a rest because things were getting too intense with a relationship breakup and transitioning from college to something more closely related to real life. And there are still days when I go into work and have to say “Today I will not get on Twitter”. You could engage in endless conversation and having the power to control yourself is very important. If you say something in haste, it might stick around on the Interwebs forever to haunt you.

I try not to post tons of updates so that I don’t tip the scales of my readers. When I do, I send both personal and professional updates because I am both of those things online and in real life. I advocate for being an active, responsible user of social networks. How about you?


Written by Erin Dorney

August 21, 2009 at 10:57 PM

2 Responses

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  1. Well said. I’ve been thinking about social networking a lot lately, too. I completely agree with you on being an active and responsible user.

    However, what I was thinking was more along the lines of: why are certain sites popular for certain age groups/professions (like FriendFeed for librarians over 30)? And in a similar vein, though not really related to social networking: how do people tend to access that information? Why do some people prefer RSS feed readers and others lifestreams like FF?

    What are your favorite social networking websites? Are there any you’ve used that you don’t like? If so, why didn’t you like them?


    August 21, 2009 at 11:21 PM

  2. I think you’ve accurately hit upon the two main areas of online presence.

    I agree with Melissa that online network use is widely spread along age groups/professions. For example I use a locked Livejournal account exclusively for communicating with a small circle of friends around the world, we’ve been friends since mid-way through college in 1997/1998. I use Facebook to keep up with my family, classmates and co-workers I am friends with and to participate in some library groups/keep up with what organizations like ARL are doing. I’m starting to use LinkedIn and find a mix of personal and professional acquaintances there. I originally started using twitter just to see what all the fuss is about 😉 As a 30 something I find that the term 2.0 grates a bit on my nerves, at first it was hard to get a definition and once someone gave me a definition (blogging/twitter/Facebook) I blinked and said, oh you mean that stuff people have been doing for years? 😉

    I agree emphatically that people need to know when enough is enough. While I agree you should be yourself it doesn’t hurt to ask yourself a few quick questions.

    1) If my boss, grandmother, and a current patron/customer read this post what would they think?

    2) If I ever change jobs would this post hurt my chances of being hired?

    3) Unless you are participating in a private locked community be wary of posting personal relationship stress and physical problems other than a cold or bout of the flu which are considered normal.

    4) Please do not post anything profane or ‘bashing’ someone else. It’s generally considered okay to post that you had bad service somewhere and were annoyed but you shouldn’t make wild and rude personal speculations about those involved. This will get you branded as trouble and I garuntee you if there is anything damaging posted by you inprint or in pictures on the web someone will find it doing a quicky web check.

    Melissa you can put me in the RSS feed reader set, but that is one of the great things about technology we can all look at things through a different interface that is comfortable for us.


    August 21, 2009 at 11:59 PM

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