Social media. It’s one of those things you like or hate. For me, I really like it. Using tools like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Meetup have allowed me to meet a slew of people in a relatively short time. As many of you know, I moved out here just over a year ago. The first 6 months I split between Las Vegas and Montreal, so I never really got to know that many people outside my group of friends at work or through existing Vegas connections.
Once I finally got of the road for a bit, I used Meetup to find groups of interest in the area. I ended up meeting John Hawkins and the Black Diamond Digital crew on a First Fridays meetup. That led to Twitter connections, which led to attending WordCamp Las Vegas, and the creation of Beer and Blog Las Vegas. Social media allowed me to find these people, and get to know them a bit before meeting them face to face. I’m a fairly shy person by nature, and wouldn’t normally introduce myself to complete strangers. I’ve met some really nice people — Manya, Lori, John, Chris, Bill, and so many others — that I feel like I have a group of friends compiled in 6 months compared to the 10 years it took in Orlando without social media. Living in Vegas also afforded me the opportunity to attend some really cool events like the CES parties (Thanks, Robert Scoble and Dustin Wax), Twestival (okay, the one I attended was in Montreal — another social media story — but I would’ve attended the Vegas one had I been here!), and the Monster Vegas Tweetup (Thanks, Scott).
There’s a further hunger harboured within me… the one that wants to see libraries and knowledge repositories (both private and public) become more social. Social media is another medium — a tool — to facilitate teaching and learning. There are people who may answer a work-related problem outside the immediate department. The company wiki benefits from those who created the page as well as those who maintain the item’s page. A tutor may be available to help a local student with their math studies. Co-workers in different offices thousands of miles apart could use each other’s knowledge to solve problems at their immediate location. Mao Tse-Tung is quoted as saying, “Learn from the masses, and then teach them.” Social media is designed to be an exchange mechanism, much like the telephone, only it’s main purpose is the party line.
In the same vein, though, users also need to make sure that they’re not sheep. Blindly following the crowd can lead to disappointment and causing yourself to look unintelligent in front of your peers. This is the librarian coming out in me, but information literacy is key. Today, every person online needs to be able to discern quality information from the junk. Look at it this way: the Wall Street Journal compared to the Weekly World News. Laugh if you will, but many people think that the Weekly World News is legitimate news and not sensational half-truth fiction. It’s easy to get caught up in groupthink when surrounded with like-minded people, which is the exact reason why we need to teach critical thinking to children at an early age. Sure, everyone gets duped at some point, but the severity and frequency is reduced with the knowledge of what comprises real information. We’re still figuring out the rules and norms of Social Media and the exponentially expanding web of (mis)information.