Last year we watched one of those “What makes you happy?” videos at a staff-meeting. People’s answer to this question was the usual: family, friends, doing what they like, except for one guy who said that what made him happy was the number of likes he got on his instagram photos. How silly and vain, I thought.
Little did I know that a couple of months later I would be obsessed with something similar. I joined Twitter after Jeff Utecht highly recommended it as one of the best tools to build a professional learning network in the digital world. I wanted, no, needed to network and find a teacher to collaborate with me on my final COETAIL project, so the clock was ticking.
My first and only follower for a while was a friend of mine who works at the same school. I found myself obsessively checking if I had gained any followers. Two weeks later I got my first retweet by the Guardian; I was hoping this would get me at least some comments from people disagreeing with my opinions. Nothing happened. In the course of eight months my number of followers has s-l-o-w-l-y increased, but as the graphic shows, 57% of them are in Chennai, India and happen to be my colleagues. Although there has been some interactions with my followers, they have been rare. Maybe I’m not using the right hashtag, maybe I’m not Tweeting at the right time…
My experience with G+, Facebook communities, and other networks has been similar. Sadly, this happened even within the COETAIL community (blogs, forums and groups). Although I have enjoyed blogging, it has been frustrating to receive comments or to get my comments approved typically only during grading periods. Could this have been a coincidence? Probably. Could it have been that my blog posts are not interesting enough? Probably, after all one cannot reinvent the wheel and have people in awe. As a friend and colleague bluntly put it, “What’s the point of following you if I can follow the direct source of information?” I would argue that if it weren’t for the people I follow in different social media platforms, I would have missed some very good articles, ideas, resources and professional development opportunities. Thanks to Twitter and G+ I have learned about several online events, and I have participated in two conferences, a few webinars, and a Twitter chat. There is no doubt that I have benefited from reaching out, however I still have to see results in terms of networking and building a professional learning community that works for me. As I said in my final project video, building connections has been extremely challenging.
As I reflected on these experiences, I could not help but think about the Instagram guy… Maybe at the time he was interviewed he was a photography major and his grades dependeded on the number of likes he got on Instagram… Promise to myself: Don’t judge people based on what makes them happy… May his efforts (and mine) not be in vain.