Someone asked me to briefly summarise my journey through social media over the last decade, a couple of months ago. I thought I’d share it here.
Fresh out of university in India many MANY years ago, I joined a social network called Ryze. It was an interesting place, if a bit confused. In the early 2000’s, it positioned itself as LinkedIn but in reality had many of the features of networks that soon surpassed it in popularity: Google’s now-defunct Orkut, and later on Facebook. Ryze introduced me to many people with shared interests, a few of whom continue to be extremely good friends (hi Shilpa and Madhavan!).
A bit later, in 2003, I started a personal blog. It drew me into a circle of people whose blogs I really enjoyed, a number of them anonymous, as mine was back then. Blogging was so new, I think all of us felt safe behind a veil of anonymity. There was a sense of belonging based on mutual interests.
I closed my personal blog around 2006, the hidden cloak of anonymity having fallen away. I needed something else to experiment with as the web starting growing in influence. As if on cue, Twitter came on the scene. I joined it in 2007. At the time I was laid up for a few months with a broken ankle in New York, so I was happy to try anything that gave me something to do without having to move from my sofa! (I joined Facebook around the same time, but it was Twitter that captured my imagination because Facebook was a gated community and not many people in my sphere had entered it, so to speak). Twitter, on the other hand, was like listening in on a hundred different cross-connections on the phone all at once, for a newbie like me then, at least. Users were mostly early adopters and I felt I was part of a new kindred community again. Clay Shirky’s ‘Here Comes Everybody’ and ‘Groundswell’ by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff were often mentioned. Subsequently, I joined many new platforms, including the Ning community led by Seth Godin when he wrote ‘Tribes’ in 2008, even curating a companion Q&A ebook with a few others. Why not, eh?
Twitter has made succinct thinking a skill, given its 140-character limit. I also enjoy sharing links to interesting articles, a way of giving back as much as I get. Of course getting lost in the internet labyrinth is always a risk, but I tend to ignore articles lampooning social media for causing attention deficit disorder. We’re adults, we should know how to control what we do!
Around the time I joined Twitter in 2007, I went back to blogging, but this time with a focus on the professional rather than the personal. That’s when One Size Fits One was born. Blogrolling was a thing back then. Now, external linking to build your community hardly exists.
My blog helped me get a foothold in a field I didn’t really start out in – I didn’t have a degree in technology or media, subjects I often speak about at conferences these days that form an integral part of what I do now. I used to run a series of interviews with interesting people in marketing in the early days as well, which I still continue with startup founders, though much less often.
Other things I have been able to do through social media include writing chapters for collaborative books and presentations and expanding my knowledge in a more structured way through Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs) on platforms like Coursera. Participation is oriented in good old forums, which have shown no signs of dying; in fact Google Groups is the mainstay of Ada’s List, an online group for women in technology that I co-founded last year.
In short, social media has opened up lots of opportunities, introduced me to people I would never have met otherwise and helps me learn a little bit more every day.