This post is part of BSU’s BlogFest during the 2011 BSU Social Media Week festivities.   Today’s writing prompt: “What role does technology play to help or hinder relationships?”

Five years ago, Twitter was born, and I had no idea how much it would change my life, both professionally and personally. If you told me this two years ago when I first joined the Twitter community, I would have said you were crazy.  But as many of you know, Twitter as been a transformative force in my life and helped me build so many meaningful relationships I would have otherwise not been privileged to.

When I read the prompt, my answer depends on how you use “technology.”  It can hinder relationships if there is no balance with it in your life and I have certainly had my share of challenges in this area.  I rarely look at things as an “either / or”, I am more of a “both / and” type of thinker.  For a long time, I saw the use of technology, like Twitter, as either “on it” or “off it”, mainly because I did not fully understand it’s purpose in my life.  This caused a lot of unbalance and unnecessary stress, because like many things I do, I want to be the best at it so I can teach others with confidence (this comes from my parents.)  So I was on Twitter ALL THE TIME, to learn everything I could.  But recently, I have changed a bit, and embraced Twitter with a “both / and” approach.   Like my email and voicemail, I check in on Twitter when I have the chance and mainly to respond to mentions and DM’s, and to RT good content.  I no longer try to keep up with everything (because I simply can’t), knowing that my Twitter community will RT the good stuff anyway.  I have seen myself move further away from Facebook and frankly, would disconnect my account today, if it weren’t for the work I do in Higher Education to try and build learning communities.

As I think about Twitter as a relationship builder, it really matters how you spend your time there.  I love meeting new people, helping out where I can, and connecting them with others I know.  Those are big reason why I am on Twitter.  If you choose to be part of it, you may for a variety of reasons.  If you do, I have a few pieces of advice, especially for our Bridgewater State students:

1.  Have a purpose. Are you looking to network? Meet new people? Grow current relationships?  Whatever it is, understand that Twitter is an INFORMATION NETWORK that can be social at times… it is NOT a social network by definition.  Thus, you must have a clear purpose to joining Twitter or you simply won’t get it.
2.  Fill in all your information, please. I see so many people / brands who don’t fill in their information, including a current/accurate picture, website (use your LinkedIn or Facebook URL if you don’t have your own site), and who they are / what they do.  How can I trust your content when I can’t read ANY info on you.  The first step in getting me to follow you is to have this information complete and accurate.
3. It takes time to build relationships. Be patient as you develop your online identity.  Listen more than you tweet initially, but when you feel comfortable, get to know your community members one tweet a time.

Technology has certainly been a relationship builder and it can be for you if you want it to be.  If your main technology is a mobile phone, laptop, iPad, etc., be mindful of how you use it and know that its OK to unplug once in a while.  I will certainly be doing more that this summer.

Happy fifth birthday Twitter 🙂

What technology is your relationship builder or hinderer? What have been your habits and do you need to reevaluate how you use it?


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