A manager at my employer asked me this afternoon how I got involved with social computing and social media. Coincidentally, I had recently read blog posts by Laura Fitton (Pistachio Consulting) and Chris Brogan (ChrisBrogan.com) about how they first got involved. So I figured I might chime in as well.
Several years ago - maybe 2004? - I somehow found out about podcasting. I don’t even remember how. I soon had subscribed to several podcasts about things that interest me: Catholicism, sci-fi, space, and computers/internet/technology. The podcasts to which I subscribed would often start talking about different “social” web sites and tools like Twitter, Jaiku, Pownce, del.icio.us, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, etc. In some cases I also received invites from friends and acquaintances.
After hearing about a certain “social” tool enough times from enough people (or if something just sounded really, really cool), I would register for an account and start participating. In most cases, I used the tools just to share with friends & family - Flickr photos and blog posts for example. But it was Twitter that really generated the most excitement for me.
Why? What’s so special about Twitter? First of all, I work full-time from an office in my home, so I don’t get a chance to interact with other people very often during the day. Twitter became the virtual water cooler for me - a place to interact (or even just listen) to other folks who share the same interests as me. As time went on, though, I began to expand my network. As my network expands, I hear about different things that interest me fairly frequently just be “listening” in Twitter. But I have also been able to participate in some different activities as well through connections made on Twitter. So Twitter has accelerated the rate at which I hear about the latest news, tools, etc.
One of the reasons I love social media is that it provides a way to interact with people as real people and not faceless cogs in corporate machinery or untouchable stars that site high upon pedestals. It can provide a very personal experience. I’m just an average Joe, but I can interact with podcasters, CEOs, entrepreneurs, NASA scientists, you name it. How cool is that?
Anyway, in a nutshell, that’s how and why I got started in social media. It happened essentially by accident, but has taken on a life of its own.
P.S., Feel free to follow me on Twitter.