Says Karen Byrom, fiction editor for a national magazine.
First of all, disclosure time – my use of social media extends to Facebook and Twitter. I haven’t yet mastered Instagram, Snapchat or any other of the assorted platforms available to us nowadays. But I will get round to them all – because I believe that despite its drawbacks, the internet has improved the way we communicate. Yes, there is gossip – and often some spite – to be found online, but that’s true of any society, big or small. No one would suggest we withdraw from that sort of social interaction – so why take pride in saying “Oh, I never use Facebook” or “Twitter is for trolls”. Yes, there are trolls who can make life miserable for the people they abuse, but the vast majority of Facebook and Twitter users are pleasant people, just like you and me, keen to pass on/pick up interesting information, share news and photographs and do a little bit of networking. Twitter is invaluable – I use it all the time for work, and rather than absorbing my days, it has freed up my time. No longer do I email multiple publishers or call half a dozen authors. With one tweet, and a couple of judiciously placed Twitter “handles” my associates know that I am busy on their behalf, promoting their novels along with the magazine. And, at a glance, I can find out what’s new in the world of literature. Twitter is often my only way to meet the people I’d like to write for the magazine, and allows me to form invaluable professional friendships. When I do finally get to meet my contacts in person, I already feel at ease with them, thanks to our Twitter dialogues. Facebook plays a different role in my life. Here, I keep up with friends and family. Would I even know my Canadian cousins if I met them in the street, if it weren’t for Facebook? For me, Facebook is about family – and family is the basis for any society. Why wouldn’t we choose to communicate with them on daily basis? Once we’d have kept in touch with letters and phone calls that would gradually fall away. Out of sight is out of mind, but Facebook brings the family back to the fore, and reinforces relationships. Facebook also keeps me informed. ‘Like’ a page and I have information at my fingertips about local weather, news, politics. Engaging in frequent conversations, I’m kept posted about what’s happening in the wider world. Is social media damaging the way we communicate? When I see young people sitting in a group, studiously tapping away on their phones and apparently ignoring each other, I wonder why they’ve bothered to get together in the first place! But then I remind myself that they are all together, have probably gathered together through a social media invite. They don’t lack “real” friends – they’re just fortunate to have loads more friends out there, all just a key tap away. I firmly believe that we should view social media as an extension of personal communication, rather than an intruder into “ordinary life”. Without social media, I’d never be alerted about Northern Lights ablaze outside; it would take a dozen phone calls to organise a “real-life” social; and everyone would know everything before I did!
Engaging in conversations, I’m kept posted about what’s happening in the wider world