Social media; some love it some loathe it. I’m the former, as opposed to the latter. For me it opened up my world, changed my perspective and is one of the biggest things that supported my development into the truest version of myself, both personally and professionally. Bold statement huh? Well it’s true.
I was a reluctant adopter at first, forced by a friend to go on Facebook in 2007 and it made me feel massively uncomfortable, I didn’t really post anything, just occasionally (reluctantly) got tagged in a hideous photo, that kind of thing. I joined LinkedIn in 2008, the next social network on my radar, and the one that’s gone on to become by far the biggest for me.
LinkedIn really was a real game changer from a professional standpoint. When I started out in recruitment in 2001 we still faxed CV’s to companies. Yes. That’s right. FAXED. So when it came to headhunting, that meant picking up the phone and trying to track down folks in roles that you thought might be relevant for what you needed. Trying to pin them down on the phone was murder. Then when you did, 9 times out of 10 they ended up not having quite the right skill set. Finding people on LinkedIn now is, quite literally, night and day.
LinkedIn also gave me a human face for the first time ever. People had to stop seeing Recruiters as creatures from another planet, and finally got to see that we were humans, just like them too. Suddenly they could also see our work history, our career choices, and most importantly; what other people thought about us. That was huge.
My connections also gave me credibility – people would often connect based on connections in common in the early days and base that decision on how they perceive those people. It’s safe to say LinkedIn was therefore my first true social media love swoons and my network continues to blossom.
In 2011 came Twitter. I’d recently jet propelled myself out of my unhappy life into a brave new world. When you have spent a substantial amount of time living for someone or something else, once you stop, one of the hardest things to do is to work out who the hell you are anyway. When I was a teenager, it was easy to pick my tribe, because I had a view of what all my options were, living in the small but perfectly formed City of Bristol, as I could see them. In 2011 as a ‘grown up’ living in London, I had no idea where to begin.
It was Twitter that gave me the chance to do exactly that. Twitter gave me a platform to connect back to my passions, plus discover a few new ones. Those passions focused around a few central themes; people, art and music.
SoundCloud quickly followed; a universe of talented musicians and amazing remixes. Using SoundCloud, I was able to discover new music, find new music, make new friends, then share it all on Twitter.
Then came Tumblr. A wonderful Universe of… STUFF. I mainly used this for art discovery, but some music also. My Tumbling is now minimal, having largely been replaced by Pinterest, which appeals to my OCD side, a brilliant collection of boards full of inspiring stuff. I use it as my go to place for ideas on a multitude of things.
I spent about a year happily tweeting away, discovering amazing things, sharing those discoveries and connecting with amazing people. Many of those pixelated friends became real life friends, whether I’d actually ever met the person physically or not.
Through making those connections, I quickly realised (to my delight) that the world was full of brilliantly talented weirdos, just like me. Each of us living, breathing, feeling, making mistakes, learning, growing and finding our own way through, silently rooting for one another, with a ‘like’ here, and a ‘favourite’ there.
Last came Instagram, and with that my love of photography was reborn. My confidence in terms of creative pursuits was truly bashed out of me at secondary school, so what a delight therefore to discover such an affinity with creativity and creative people in my 30’s, for that I am truly blessed.
Once I had found my groove, in terms of who I am in the world, my obsession with social media calmed down. I’m still very ‘active’ by most people’s standards, but I now don’t need to Instagram 8 times a day, or tweet every morning. I share when I feel compelled to and make observations when the mood takes me, rather than record every last minute of everything. I firmly believe though that without social media it would have taken me much longer to work out who I was, what I liked, and importantly, what makes my heart sing.
Social media has opened up my world exponentially, both personally and professionally, and I’m always up for trying the next new app to see what it has to offer. So even for those who hate social media, perhaps it’s worth considering whether your own networks might have been positively influenced by it’s existence, even just a little bit.