Tuesday, October 25, 2011

600th Post: Social Media is SOCIAL

So, I've been trying to figure out something special to do for my 600th post.  But I realized that just about everything I'd want to say in my 600th post, I already said in my Technology Boot Camp speech at the Louisville Public Library earlier this month. Why reinvent the wheel, right?  So here in its almost-entirety is the speech that I gave: (WARNING: Personal stuff lies ahead...)

If the job of Official Spokesperson for Social Media ever opens up, I think I’d have a pretty good crack at the job. It’s not that I do social media particularly well; it’s that I couldn’t be a bigger fan. This may sound like hyperbole, but it’s 100% true: social media is responsible for 90% of what’s really good in my life right now. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

On Twitter we use hashtags to add nuance to the 140 character messages we type. Like #fail, means that you acknowledge that what you just said paints you in a bad light. Or #tmi, means that you know that what you tweeted constitutes Too Much Information.

Another hashtag is #humblebrag.  That means you know that the accomplishment that you just tweeted about sounds like bragging, but that you understand how lucky you are.

So I’m going to hashtag this next little bit: #humblebrag

Over the past two months or so, I’ve been able to do the following things courtesy of my blogging and tweeting habits:
  1. I attended all three days of IdeaFestival with an all-access media pass.
  2. I’ve had two contests on my blog: one to give away a family four-pack of tickets to Max & Ruby Live and one to give away two all-access passes for the Louisville International Film Festival.
  3. I’ve seen Sense & Sensibility, Tom Sawyer, and Dracula at Actors.
  4. I was invited by the Louisville Convention and Visitors Bureau to be one of two local bloggers at a dinner for national media at the Chef’s table at the English Grill at the Brown.
  5. I’ve put together a group of readers of my blog to volunteer at the Louisville Public Media fund drive next week.
  6. I’ve been asked to be a staff writer for a new local print newspaper and am working on my third article for them.
  7. I’ve had a couple really nice dates with a really nice guy.
  8. And perhaps my favorite... after reading my blog post about Rosanne Cash’s upcoming appearance at the KY Authors Forum, the director of the forum contacted me and said she liked the post so much she wanted me to be her guest at the $100 per person VIP dinner for Rosanne Cash, one of my heroes.
Granted this has been an unusual month. But a remarkable one too.

But when it boils down to it, both my blogging habit and my Twitter habit were born out of adversity.

I started blogging on September 2, 2005.  I’d been living in New Orleans for eight years, and on September 2, 2005, I was stranded in Florida with no idea if my home was destroyed, no idea if all of my friends had gotten out of the city before Katrina. I was sick of fielding phone calls and emails from concerned friends and family from all over the country-- and of repeating the same sorry story of fear and sadness and uncertainty. So I started a blog called “Displaced,” and I told everyone I knew that they could check up on me by going to the blog. That way I only had to tell each story once. It was a blog of necessity, but it became a chronicle of my life first as a Katrina evacuee, then as one of the first wave of people to return to the city after the storm, then as someone who lost her footing a bit, and finally as one of the many people who were forced to move elsewhere-- in my case Louisville-- ten months after Katrina.

Displaced consists of a little over 100 blog posts. And no joke, every time I have ever gone back to try to re-read all of those posts, I break down and stop after maybe 20. There are posts I haven’t read since I posted them six years ago. But I am so grateful that they exist.

But, as I said, I moved to Louisville under duress. I didn’t know anything about the city, and I didn’t know a single person here. And I was miserable. So my second blog, My Loueyville, the blog that got me invited to speak to you today, was likewise started as a response to adversity. One day, I decided that I was tired of being miserable, and that I had to make a concerted effort to find things I loved about this city. I started a blog that would celebrate the culture and character of Louisville.

My first blog post was about how much I love going to Bats games.

I’ve since written close to 600 posts, but for a good 200 of those I was blogging just for myself. It was only maybe three years ago that people started reading My Loueyville in earnest. My first indication of this was when Actors Theatre contacted me and asked if I wanted media passes for a show. I’ve been a theatre geek since high school, so I’d been blogging about a lot of theatre productions. Someone in the PR office of Actors took notice and looked me up. Since then I’ve racked up media passes.  Broadway Across America, Churchill Downs Entertainment, Walden, Actors. For more than a year, my blog was one of three featured blogs on the Possibility City website.

All of this was an unintended consequence of a lonely, sad woman starting a blog that she hoped would help change her mind about where she was living. And of course, it worked. I’m madly in love with Louisville. I consider myself one of the biggest cheerleaders for this city. And because of this blog, not only did I come to see the city through new eyes, but I’ve been given the opportunity to see more and do more than I would have been able to afford on a teacher’s budget.

But blogging isn’t the only social media that’s changed my life.

The blog helped change the “sad” part of this “lonely, sad woman’s” situation. It was Twitter that changed the “lonely” part. And again, my twitter habit was also born of adversity.

2008 was not a good year for me. In May, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. On September 14, while I was napping on my couch, recovering from a particularly brutal round of chemo, Hurricane Ike ripped through the city and toppled a 30’ tree onto my house, crushing it. I was fine, but I was faced with 8 months of living in a hotel while I waited for my house to be rebuilt.

If I wasn’t lonely before-- and I was-- I became desperately lonely while living in the Residence Inn downtown. There’s no loneliness like hotel loneliness. And one day, I got an email from another local blogger whom I’d never met-- Michelle from Consuming Louisville. She was writing as a response to a fan letter I'd written her, and at the end of the email, she asked if I was on Twitter. I wasn’t. I was a frequent Facebook user, and I saw Twitter as a frivolous waste of time. But because of her, I signed up and basically copied the list of people she followed.

And I started making friends.

The difference between Twitter and Facebook is this: on Facebook, you follow people you already know. High school friends, college friends, work friends. These people are or have been your friends at some point-- that’s why you follow them. On Twitter, there’s no obligation. When you follow someone, they don’t have to confirm you or follow you back. So you tend to follow people who say interesting things. And people who say interesting things on Twitter tend to be interesting people in real life. You’re most likely never going to make a new friend on Facebook-- I never have. But making new friends is kind of what Twitter is all about.

Six months after I joined Twitter, maybe less, I had a group of friends here in Louisville. That group has grown and continues to grow. And today I can say that my friends are the best, most diverse, interesting group of people I’ve known in my life. If you had told little nerdy high school me that in her thirties her social life would be as remarkable and important as it is now, she would have said you were crazy. And out of all the wonderful friends I have in Louisville, I only knew two of them before Twitter and the blog.

I’m not a computer geek. But blogger and twitter are so easy, and when things were tough for me, they my life easier. When I had cancer, I started a private blog for my family and friends called Girls Gone Bad where I posted about my surgeries and treatments. When my best friend moved to Australia while I was recovering from chemo, I started a private blog just for him called Watch My Hair Grow where I posted a picture of myself every week, so he could see how quickly I was going from bald to not-bald.

Social Media is called Social Media for a reason. It’s not about hiding behind a computer screen and interacting with the world. It’s about reaching out into the world, making connections, and finding people and places where you belong.


Michelle said...

Congratulations on #600! So pleased that social media has brought so many good things to your life! You deserve only the best. Love you!

Stephanie said...

This! So many of my adventures in the last 10 years have been because of social media ... LiveJournal and Twitter, primarily. I, too, know that I lead a richer life because of it. And it's what gets this chick to overcome her anxiety and get out there and meet people (and create kickball teams!).

And I'm so glad that social media brought me your friendship.

Congrats on 600! :)

Anonymous said...

Love love love reading this. And a big thanks from me to @michellej and twitter for bringing you into my life a long with so many others that are wonderful.

Louisville Family Fun said...

Great post and congrats on #600! I couldn't agree more, I "know" so many locals in Louisville b/c of twitter.