This is not the first post in which I’ve extolled the virtue of using social media in the context of HIV work or been surprised at the number of those who, in 2015, have yet to embrace it. True, those who work in HIV or are part of the wider HIV community are busy with competing priorities. Immersion in social media can suck up time like nobody’s business. But if you want to stay ahead of the game and be informed and inform others, social media is not just a “nice to have”, it’s an absolute necessity. Ignore it at your peril
So . . I’ve long been an advocate of Twitter - PositiveLite.com uses it extensively to keep readers and potential readers apprised of our content all the time. It’s a powerful, up-to-the minute and hyper-active resource for anything you want to share or beam in on, in 140 characters or less.
I’ve been less outspoken on the merits of Facebook, mostly, I must confess, because I’ve just been too busy to make good use of it. I was already up to my neck in social media and have had to be selective.
Until recently, that is, when I reactivated my long dormant Facebook account and decided to plunge in to the fray while I was on vacation in the wilds of South Carolina. And plunged in I did, not just with sharing stray pieces of HIV news and PositiveLite.com content, but sharing doggie pics, lots of Southern food pics and “what I did on my holidays” type of content. I probably over did it, but it was fun.
My Facebook friends list quickly became populated not just by personal friends, but a very large contingent of those I know and love in the HIV community. (My, HIV has introduced me to scores of good people! I've never been so conscious of that.) And here’s the rub. Now I know them so much better – not to mention their boyfriends/girlfriends, their pets, their passions. Importantly, all this is not just interesting, but has finally created real people out of colleagues and peers whom I previously knew only by their place in the community.
I’ve long since bemoaned the fact that as HIV community members our relationships with each other tend to be one-dimensional, superficial almost. We know each other through the work we do, or through our relationship to HIV, but not always via very much else. That one-dimensional nature of our relationships feeds in to the wrong notion that we are all just about HIV, that we have no other interests or preoccupations. Facebook in particular excels in freeing us from that notion and reveals complete people with complete lives, often flavoured by HIV or HIV work, but certainly not consumed by it.
We are a fascinating bunch.
True I can do without the inspirational comments (see above) but I’m 100% in when It comes to hearing friends' thoughts on Paris, Charlie Sheen or ugly Christmas sweaters. I like seeing peoples’ pets, where folks went last night, what they wore on Halloween or learning what pisses them off or, better still, what makes them happy. We are humans. I like humans.
So while social media is great for exchanging knowledge and promoting things, I’m persuaded its best and brightest use is for humanizing us all.