About two months ago, I set myself up online: blog – check; twitter account – check; newspaper blogs – check. It seems to be going quite well – see here and here for two articles about a parenting programme that I published today.
The big benefits of my social media adventure are that I feel more up to date on what’s happening in the crime policy world, I’ve made some new contacts, and I’m pretty sure I’m getting a better feeling for the media and journalism. Still, there have certainly been some teething problems:
1. Social media is distracting. The first months must surely be the worst but trying to keep up a blog, develop a reliable twitter following and so forth all takes time away from whatever you do for a living – and particularly if whatever you do for a living still allows you access to your computer, as writing a book most definitely does. I am still learning but a few things that help me to stay focused on my core work are:
- Setting a time limit for blogs and sticking to it. I aim for 45 minutes and if it goes any longer than that because I’m writing something more complex/ interesting I usually put it on hold and see if I can land it in a newspaper instead.
- Setting times when you check your twitter. This is much harder – still, I’ve learned that there are peak times where the people I’m interested in seem to use twitter and follow up links so I try to lean towards those. (If you’re interested early in the week and during office hours are best… clearly, others struggle like me).
- Writing a set number of blogs for this site. I haven’t mastered this at all. I try to blog at least once a week but that isn’t always as easy as it sounds, particularly if I’m writing other blogs – say at the Independent or Guardian.
Problem 2: I’m not sure I’m reaching the right people. Now, this must be a VERY common problem but I’m pretty sure my blog would be most appreciated by criminology, sociology and politics university students – or those who have had an interest in those subjects in the past. A good example of this would be my article on Portuguese football hooliganism and the alternative vote – it now has some 2,000 views but most of these are dedicated football fans, who I suspect won’t find the rest of the site’s material sufficiently tailored to their interests! I wish I knew how to address this so please let me know if you have ideas!
Problem 3: I’m too sensitive. The nature of the blogosphere/ twitter is that people feel that behind the mask of anonymity they can spout off all manner of bilious vitriol. People who come to my blog (like you) seem to be lovely and civilised. People on twitter occasionally overstep the mark – usually because they are quite inclined to view statements of fact or personal opinion as sufficient excuse to make personal attacks (I seem to get off VERY lightly compared to others but was surprised by this). Those who read newspaper blogs seem to have very predictable (usually extreme) positions based on which newspaper they read. I do love the way that people inform themselves by trying to read the opinions of people who are exactly like them…
I suspect the best approach here is simply to man up. I am reliably informed by digi-experts (I like to make up words) that all comment is good comment so best to take it all as a complement and breathe deeply. I’ve also definitely found that comments are hugely helpful for understanding how some people will interpret what you say. I’ve definitely become better at predicting how people will react to messages. The danger here is you’ll start being scared of writing any opinion/ fact though – so I am desperately trying not to overreact here. I’m also, however, refusing to get dragged into the mud. The best approach to the frustrated is silence. People find it infuriating, apparently.
Why I’m writing about this and not Ken Clarke’s sentencing predicament could well be that I’m afraid of antagonising people – or it might just be that that post got rather too long, so you’ll see it in a publication near you (and here) very soon…
Oh, and if you have digi-knowledge, do share below!