There are two twitter conversations in the last twelve hours that have encouraged me to put fingers to keyboard – one was a discussion with @ermintrude2 @martinhowitt @copperbird @HelenHSAUK @jaxrafferty about obituaries and whether you should have ‘live obituaries’ and the other with a similar group and @timolloyd and @paulcoxon81 about social media and whether it can be taught.
You may be sat there wondering how the two can be linked, I’m going to suggest that they are, because they’re fundamentally about recognition and acceptance. Last night I posted my grandfather’s obituary from the local paper and I was delighted to receive comments from people who had read it and felt like they knew something of my Grandad. I guess there was a sense of recognition, I have a pride in being associated with such a great man (who if I’m honest is possibly no more or less great than anyone’s Grandad but I’m particularly proud of him because he was mine!) and I get a warm glow when other people also recognise in him what I experienced.
I was also remembering my first boss, who had worked for over 35 years in Special Education in Ireland when he retired. He spent about six months receiving awards and accolades, being dined and respected…all very definitely due, but we were talking over a cuppa on one of his last days at work and he remarked that he didn’t understand why it had taken him to retire, for people to encourage him. He was one of the most supportive people I have ever worked with, he saw my potential and invested a lot in me, building my confidence and belief. He took the time for me, we would often have early evening chats over tea once the rest of the department had emptied out. He was a truly great man, who had a significant influence on me and my thinking….and evidently on many other people’s. It did leave me wondering whether he would have had a better experience if he had received just some of that recognition earlier in his career.
So, how does that relate to suggestions about teaching social media. Well I guess for me, it all comes down to the same thing, recognition and acceptance. Anyone who can remember their childhood (I’m sure I’m not the only one who felt like this) can probably remember the mix of excitement and fear when you goto school for the first time (I felt something similar when I went to my first OU tutorial a few months ago) or when you join a new club, or move house, or start a new job – that sense of potential, wrapped up in a basal level of concern that you might not be accepted. That you might not fit. That you might get it wrong. I’m not sure that those of us who have been using social media for some time are necessarily the best people to advise on how to encourage or support people to use it, we’re already convinced or we wouldn’t be here. That said I do think people need to be comfortable to learn publicly, to risk making errors in public (most social media platforms are very public), to have a go, to contact people and risk that they won’t reply, to realise that there are slightly subtle differences in online communication, people may not reply because they don’t see something/are too busy but that doesn’t equate to ignoring someone – it took me a long time to feel comfortable with not trying to catch up with conversations.
So, what is this rambly post all about. I guess I have an overriding sense that we could all encourage each other a bit more than we do. In some way I suppose that is what #ff on twitter is about (although I don’t do that!) I hope it is also something of what Acknolwedgers is about too. Some public recognition. Maybe ‘live obituaries’ are a step too far, but perhaps an occasional public recognition or acknowledgement wouldn’t go a miss.
We rarely understand the totality of someone’s experience so if in doubt, a virtual high five, a word of encouragement, a response to their tweet, won’t do you any harm and it might have a considerable impact on the person stood at the edge of the circle trying to figure out how to join in. Go on, pay someone a compliment or give them an acknowledgement today.