I am at my best when I help others and at my worst when I help myself

I recently read a short blog post called “My brain is exploding” by Rachel Brushfield that prompted me to reflect on why I stopped using FB and twitter at the end of 2010 – and why I started using twitter again in March 2011. The following is an edited/longer (slightly self-indulgent?) version of my response on Rachel’s blog.

Just before Christmas 2011, I (like Rachel) felt that my brain was exploding with social media overload. I had only been on twitter and FB for nine months – in which time I had had great fun supporting the bid by Norwich to become the UK’s first city of culture (a bid that, sadly, failed). However, by the end of the year I felt jaded – and tweeting seemed to serve no purpose.

So I closed my FB account – stopped tweeting for over two months (and un-followed some 70% of my twitter contacts – which on reflection was probably a bit rude – sorry if you were among those culled – I’ve probably re-followed you since then) – and focused on work (which thankfully got very busy about then).

Focusing on my purpose

This break gave me time to clear my head, calm down – and think. I decided that the reason I had started using twitter (to promote culture in Norwich and Norfolk) should be the reason I continued using twitter. I realised that I am at my best when I help others and at my worst when I help myself (at the risk of sounding like a new age guru). Helping others also makes me feel happy (all altruism is probably tinged with some self-interest).

So that is what I do – most of the time (I sometimes get sidetracked – not least by real work). I try to have interesting conversations with interesting people on a range of subjects – and I sometimes succeed.

I don’t automatically follow people back (I have about 300 on my follow list – but over 700 followers) – and I don’t expect people to follow me back either (I don’t check up on who is or isn’t) – as I explained in my previous post. <<Note: This post was originally published in May 2011 – as of November 2014 I follow over 3000 people and have nearly 5000 followers.>>

Supporting others in our community

I probably RT too much – but I like to share stuff that I find interesting, beautiful or useful – and I don’t always modify tweets (MT) by adding a comment, partly because I don’t always have time or anything useful to say. More importantly, I prefer to use auto RT because the originator’s name continues to show first. I sometimes feel that by adding a comment I am hijacking the original tweet – dissipating their influence (if that makes sense).

To expand on that last point a bit: I am convinced that RTs are almost as important as @replies. They are a way showing support for someone else’s view – and promoting that person ahead of yourself (unlike an MT which effectively promotes the modifier first).

When you look at other people’s auto RTs you often see one tweet with upwards of 100 RTs – that tweet is commanding a lot of attention – and that in turn means influence – but if you use MT you break the link to that shared experience (and social media is all about shared experiences). That’s why, if I want to make a comment I often (not always – I’m not perfect) auto-RT first and the MT second.

Now, back to the exploding brain idea: by not trying to do too much on twitter, I have re-established some sense of control. I no longer feel swamped by information – nor do I feel compelled to read and respond to every tweet (unless they are directed at me).

I hope these thoughts help you prevent your brain from exploding. So tell me, how do you manage your social media activity? What are you hoping to achieve when you use twitter?

The reason I killed my facebook account.

I eventually killed my facebook account completely in late 2011 after the advertising and other rubbish became too intrusive. Glad I did.

For more on this subject, please see my other posts about encouraging tourism, NaNTwiNk, and #NFDF2014.

Final point – from 2014 – the introduction of conversation link lines makes redundant my point about RTing first and then modifying the tweet to comment – now I simply RT and add a reply. People who follow me see both in their stream neatly linked (thank you twitter).

PS: I now offer personalised or small group twitter training – if you want to know more, please contact me.

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4 thoughts on “I am at my best when I help others and at my worst when I help myself

  1. I can identify with a lot of what you’re saying here Huw as I’ve been on a similar journey. So much noise, too little time to navigate it, but I sense a lot of people feeling the same. It feels OK – good, even – to take a step back and slow down. I no longer feel the pressure to blog as frequently (I’ve never wanted to blog for the sake of it and prefer to wait until something makes we want to write).

    Not entirely with you re your point about RT’ing without a comment though, as the added endorsement is often what makes me click through so I do sometimes add my thoughts, to encourage others. Anyway, thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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    • Thank you Marcie – great to hear from you. Agree the whole RT thing is a bit tricky. On Old Twitter you can see what others are retweeting – the great thing about that is you see one tweet with avatars below it of all the people who have retweeted (up to 15 at any rate) including people in your twitter circle – I like that sense of shared experience. I tend to auto RT if I think the original stands without comment (I just want to show support) – and MT when I want to add a comment. Not perfect but that’s twitter. Cheers – Huw

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  2. Just dropped by to say hello after your visit to mine! Love this post – am with you on the social media business (just getting into it to support parents and raise awareness of alternatives if they need them) but not wanting it to govern my life. Also interested in ‘culture’ in Norfolk as I live round the other side the wash from you and often visit. So nice to ‘meet’ you! Best wishes.

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    • Hi Ross – thank you so much for dropping by – great to hear from you and glad you found the blog insteresting.

      Love your blog and totally agree with you that nurturing a love of learning is so much more important than the pursuit of narrow academic performance. Also agree that our industrialised education system is failing far too many children. Sadly too many people continue to believe ‘the state’ knows best.

      Hope to meet for real one day (do shout if you are ever in south Norfolk).

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