Two years ago, I snuck Twitter into a training. It was supposed to be about paperless math, but I wanted to show people the "power of Twitter" and so I said, "This is awesome. this right here is the ultimate P.D."
I then tweeted out, "Hey, I'm showing how Twitter works. Please reply and tell me where you are from."
It worked. Though I had less than a thousand followers, I had a steady stream of replies. "See, that's my PLN. It's global. This is my community where I share ideas. I can ask a question and get an idea just about any time."
I presented Twitter like a really fancy human search engine and not the quirky place where I've found community.
The problem is that I didn't share any ideas in the moment. I didn't joke around. I didn't make up a hashtag. I was a professional version of myself that is almost never true of me on Twitter. I showed them how Twitter works rather than why I love interacting on it. I showed them a tool rather than giving them a glimpse of the place that I go - or better yet, letting them get to know the people I've met.
It's a bit like saying, "I'm a member of an amazing church. It has a great feel and a supportive community. I've made some amazing friends. Now, I want to show you how people hold hymnals and where we place our little mini-shot-glasses full of grape juice."
Not only that, I now realize that I didn't tell them the real experience of Twitter. The truth is that, like a church, it is uncomfortable at first. People are using hashtags (might as well be speaking in tongues) and they're talking about chats and they're using the RT symbol and the MT symbol and asking for DM's.
Twitter is also a little standoffish at first. I don't think people intend for it to be this way, but most people when they start out tweet into a void and wait in awkward silence. If they're bold enough to jump into a conversation, they face a challenge of meeting new people. There is a sense of the "inner circle."
Pretty soon, I'll be talking about "how to use social media" with a group of educators. But I don't want to talk about how to use it. I want to tell them about the people. I want to share the power of the community. But I also want to be honest about it. I want them to know that it takes time to feel a sense of belonging. It isn't simply a tool someone uses for professional development. It's a place for sharing ideas and engaging in meaningful conversation.
Photo Credit: by chada - It was awhile ago, but it still makes me smile. Love their response to Westboro Baptist Church.