As a mother I’m very blessed. I have a daughter who shares with me all her most intimate secrets: from where she goes at night; what she wears; her taste in music and favourite pubs; and what she really feels. It’s a profound relationship. Except that it happens on Facebook. The blessing is that I’ve been “friended” and, along with thousands other people, can get to know and understand my daughter’s life.
I’m not being sarcastic. It’s actually a privilege to be invited to share her life. When I was her age my parents knew nothing of what I did or thought. I didn’t tell them and they knew better than to ask a teenager. But I’m seeing the world through her luminous, optimistic eyes and her photos are splendid — bringing everything to life for me. Watching her grow up on MySpace then on Facebook was how I first began to fall in love with social media.
There are now an estimated 13 million people active on Facebook a month, and the demographic has radically shifted to the 39-plus and baby boomers demographics. A recent study from Pew Research Centre discovered that the number of US adults of all ages using social networks nearly doubled in two years to 61 per cent.
We’re not all chatting to our kids, mums, friends or looking for love; many of us are using social media as a tool. This can be for work — the powerful advertising potential of Facebook; for information — connecting to thousands of journalists and editors on Twitter; and for networking — creating groups of clients and stakeholders on LinkedIn.
But whatever our needs, most people are not using social media to its full potential according to Sydney-based social media expert Laurel Papworth. She runs courses all over the world for individuals, companies and government departments. Last year, I attended one of her public intensives where I polished my blogging skills and learned about a whole swathe of wonderful everyday tools.
For instance, If This Then That (IFTTT.com) can check the weather, then automatically tweet and Facebook a reminder to grab your umbrella; give you restaurant reviews as they are happening; tweet recommended music; basically provide anything you ask.
“Many people are embarrassed to admit they don’t know how to use social media to its fullest; they feel overwhelmed or confused about how to open the big doors and connect to the world. Get yourselves educated!” says Papworth, who is teaching a unique course in Bali in October, EatPrayTweet, to help people relax while they learn.
She says there are many, varied courses around to help with all aspects of social media, such as online courses offered by Udemy.com. “Help is just a mouse-click away.”