Tuesday, July 10, 2012 - 5:00 a.m.
In exactly two weeks I have a job interview for a position I would really like to get. I think my chances of getting the job are quite good, as I held the position once before, around ten years ago, in a different lifetime. I’m also confident in my abilities in Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign, and my design abilities in general, and the bulk of the job lies in these areas.
But in the ten years or so since I worked for this organization, something has happened which is making me feel less confident than I would like to be about getting this job: It has continued to evolve, and I have not. I figure this is the ideal time to stop dabbling around with my toe in the water and plunge headlong into something, the very mention of which strikes fear into my heart: Social Media.
I just turned 50 last December, so I guess technically I am a tail-end Baby Boomer. I’ve been fiddling around with computers since senior year in college, and have been keeping up on my internet skills, mostly, since the early 90’s. But it’s slowly starting to dawn on me that in two weeks I will be competing with the kind of young whippsersnappers who were born with a smartphone in one hand and an ipod in the other. Youngsters who know computers and software inside and out, and who swim through social media like barracudas in warm tropical seas. Kids who can out-blog, out-text, out-internet me in their sleep.
In short, it is time to un-dinosaurify myself. It’s mostly so I can get this job. But it’s also because this has been one of those things that has been bugging me, little by little--creeping up on me so slowly it feels a lot like rust--as I feel myself fall further and further behind the curve. Or behind the wave. Which is full of barracudas, all of whom want to take a bite out of my behind.
Last night I had the brilliant idea that the best approach to this self-instructed crash course in social media would be to implement the learning-by-doing method. Why not, I thought, blog about the experience? Why not use the very media I am trying to learn to broadcast to society in general how I am doing? That’s the heart of social media, right? To be able to bore your friends and acquaintances with all the minutiae of your life that in former times would have been too incredibly dull to even mention?
So herewith, early one fine July morning, I begin my blog. And immediately I have a confession to make. I am not writing this entry directly into my blog. It’s not that I don’t have a blog that would serve the purpose. The sad fact is, I’m not sure I can find my blog from this computer--instead of the one I used to start the blog to begin with (which--I think--has a bookmark to lead me there)--so I’m just word-processing, and will post this first entry later.
To save just a little face, I do need to mention that at least I am not simply using Word or Wordpad and storing this document on my computer’s hard drive. Heck no--how old school is that?! I’m using Google docs and storing in the cloud. “Hooray!” my inner voice says. “Your big toe is now fully submerged!”
All right, so now it’s time to make a list. What are my assets going into this project, and where do I need to focus my efforts?
My assets, as I see them, are this:
1.) Fluency in the graphics world. As I mentioned before, I’m pretty comfortable with Adobe’s Big Three. I have no trouble taking a digital photo or video, downloading it to my computer, and uploading it from there to a website. Unless said website is my own blog, which, at this moment, is out in cyberspace somewhere.
2.) I am also fairly comfortable with several of the building blocks of social networking. I do in fact have a blog set up. I did it through WordPress and the name of the blog is... as you know already... Greg’s Plate. I have blogged before, about six years ago, and when I was doing it regularly it wasn’t too difficult. I mean, I could at least find the thing and post something without getting that sinking feeling I have in the pit of my stomach right now over my lost blog. Poor little thing, all alone out there in cyberspace with no entries yet! I hope it’s not cold and hungry.
3.) I also have a page on Facebook. You probably already know this by now too, since one of the things I need to learn how to do is to direct readers from Facebook to my blog. I think this is as easy as copying and pasting a link, but since I haven’t done it before I’m not sure. Don’t want to take anything for granted.
4.) I also have a book I need to dig into. It’s called Rule the Web: How to Do Anything and Everything on the Internet--Better, Faster, Easier. I’ve had the book four or five years. It was pretty handy back then when I read the first few chapters. Today, it’s seeming a bit fossilized as well.
5.) One of my biggest assets, which I would be terribly remiss not to mention, are my more tech-savvy friends. Some of you reading this will recognize yourselves here, only slightly camouflaged to protect you from any blowback from having to admit you know someone who can’t find his own blog. I work with one person, about ten years younger than me, who is one of those guys whose knowledge of computers, software and internet stuff is, to me, like the Holy Grail of Social Media wisdom. If I could just do some sort of mind-meld with him, I’d be able to save myself these next two weeks of plodding, tripping, and dragging myself along the information superhighway. (Heh... even that sounds quaint now... “information superhighway.” Does anyone else out there remember that term? We’ve gone from superhighways to clouds. Where next... solar computing? The vacuum of space storage systems?) There are also a couple of other important players in my “live tutors” category whom you will meet as we go along.
6.) Google. Google has been my friend and cyber-ally for some time now. I’ve been using gmail for years, Google docs for a couple of years, and in the last two years have been having fun by sharing a spreadsheet with a couple of friends on an annual project, and sharing photos through Picasa. My homepage is through iGoogle. However, lately I am getting confused about what iGoogle is, and Google+. I just read something about Google+ (200-something million users) as being sort of a competitor to Facebook (900-something million users). I need to look into Google+ more deeply.
7.) On a tip from one of my live tutor mentors, I recently started a Pinterest account.
8.) I have a cell phone, and I am counting it as one of my assets because it has introduced me to the world of texting. However, it is not a Smart Phone. It is only a Phone of Moderate Intelligence. This needs to change, and pronto. Of all the technological things that have been making me feel left behind lately, cell phone/smartphone technology is by far the leader. So much so that when I’m in public I am almost embarrassed to get my puny little TracFone out for any reason. I think in this day and age, and especially for a job like the one I’m going for, a smartphone is an absolute necessity.
Okay, to summarize this list of assets so far:
1.) Graphics knowledge
2.) Blog: Greg’s Plate
3.) Facebook basic knowledge
4.) Rule the Web book
5.) Tech-savvy friends
6.) Google experience
7.) Pinterest page
8.) Cell phone
I admit, they looked more impressive in paragraph form.
Here are some things that are on my list of to-do’s:
1.) Log in to Facebook at least once a day (which I am not doing now. Sometimes I do not log in for a week or more.) Get really familiar with everything it can do.
2.) Maintain this blog on a daily basis.
3.) Start a Twitter account, and make some tweets.
4.) Figure out what it means to “Log in through Facebook,” and why this might be advantageous / disadvantageous.
5.) Undoubtedly, there is a “Social Networking for Dummies” book out there. Buy it. Read it.