More at home in a classroom with chalk and paper, I am a relative newcomer to social media. It was with a naïve and rather gormless view that I approached blogging and Twitter. My mind was an empty vessel – so much to learn… Kerri Sackville’s Twitter course was invaluable – full of sensible advice and practical tips. Why then do I still find it a bit scary?
I am no shrinking-violet – one can’t survive the slings and arrows of a high school for twenty years without gaining a tough exterior. One can’t be too precious standing in front of a classroom of bored, eye-rolling Year 9s, who would rather be doing anything else than deconstructing a piece of text. One can’t be self-obsessed when a room of Year 12s pin you with their anxious gazes, relying on you to guide them through the biggest exam pressure they have ever faced and on which much can hinge.
So I’ve learnt dealing with very bored, very cool teenagers to be a bit blasé about myself and my image, not to take me too seriously…if I have a pimple on my face when I leave home in the morning, I expect soon to have a student asking, “Oh miss, you’ve got a big pimple on your chin!” Thank you for that, Amber. (Aren’t adolescents supposed to be the ones with troublesome skin?) And when I’ve been a bit radical with my hair, sure as anything before long I will hear, “That’s different Miss but I prefer your normal hair.” Thank you for sharing that, Jayden. Or if I am away and a young, gorgeous relief teacher takes my class, “Miss we really liked the new teacher we had yesterday. She/he did fun stuff!” I could tell you had fun class, the desks and chairs were rearranged and there were paper balls all over the floor. The young can be so casually brutal!
Along the way I’ve acquired a certain tough confidence, with several children under my belt and two husbands (not at the same time), a nice family and true friends. I feel quite privileged, even blessed in life’s lottery. The modest success with publishing books for adolescents when I was young thrilled me, though as all writers know, one can never be complacent about publishing. (Penguin recently rejected my manuscript for ‘So Not Funny’).
Tough and confident enough to follow everyone’s advice and release my manuscript as an eBook, open a Twitter account and begin blogging. Yet it’s tricky being propelled into a world where norms are new and rules are different. It’s like comparing a blackboard with a new interactive white board – a daunting new tool – great but challenging to master. Cyberland is a hazardous playing field: New friends abound yet you can offend them with the hasty tapping of 140 characters. The irony you thought was witty is taken literally, leaving the recipient thinking you’re rude. You can be unfollowed and left wondering “Was it something I said?” And try as you might to shrug it off, you can’t help analysing your comments with all the paranoia of an insecure narcissist.
Social media expert Jodi Gibson was so reassuring and inspiring that I am going to continue my little cyber trajectory because, apart from flashes of self-doubt, I’ve learnt it’s about fun. I enjoy the diverse blogs I read (too numerous to list!) I am constantly surprised and touched by the wit and cleverness that dwells in Cyberland, by the kindness and wealth of experience and knowledge that lie within a keyboard’s reach.
As Garfield once said, “That’s enough of me talking about me, now you talk about me… err you.” What’s your experience with social media, was it smooth, or are you still navigating your journey through Cyberland? Are you having fun in the process?