Free-Range Personal Meditation on Social Media

Some friends down in Baton Rouge are working on a new social media conference, Coastal Social. Reading over the site and trying to spread the word about the event to some of my New Media-savvy pals, I’ve also been thinking about how this blog–and its author–has evolved.

At the risk of proving the complaint that bloggers are just vain writers who overuse the personal pronoun “I,” let’s take a look at what’s rumbling around in my head.

It was two years ago this month that I started Red, White & Grew over on the old site. The presidential primary campaign was heated–especially between then-Senators Clinton and Obama, but Sarah Palin wasn’t really on anybody’s radar yet. We had a young child and, with him, had just planted our first vegetable garden here in San Antonio. My mother and I chatted about what her father used to grow almost daily, and I kept checking out those WWI and WWII-era garden propaganda posters that’d caught my eye in grad school.

Out of this mash-up came a bipartisan, patriotic-themed garden blog, one that ended up with more than its fair share of publicity thanks in large part to connections nurtured via sites like Twitter. Yes, I credit Twitter–which was still pretty new back then–with much of this blog’s early success. More recently I’ve found Facebook has provided the kind of reader interaction that never really appeared on the blog. (More on that in a sec.)

Some new bloggers get frantic if they don’t receive comments right away or en masse. This was never a big deal for me. Don’t get me wrong—I love, love, LOVE constructive feedback and am grateful for it. But having come to New Media via Old Media–where instant feedback is rare (and often negative), comments were never a goal here on the blog. They were, to use a term picked up during my four years in Louisiana, precious lagniappe.

Yet, through the random conversations that I’ve had via Twitter and Facebook in response to posted links and questions, I’ve come to enjoy the spirit of camaraderie found in social media–AND I’ve amassed a ton of feedback (positive and negative) via those sites.

Yes, I know blogs are technically social media, but there’s always a writer “in charge.” Many highly skilled bloggers have hardcore followings where there’s a vital sense of community that’s great fun to experience. Personally, however, I’ve come to relish sweet fruit produced when random people’s thoughts on all sorts of topics–politics, gardening, race relations, food security, travel, motherhood, rural life–get mashed-up conveniently in one place. For instance, my Twitter stream is rich and full–and, in the opinion of some, stocked with too many followers. I disagree on that last point because, for me, it wasn’t until I started to follow 500+ folks that I really “got” Twitter.*

Over time, RW&G has come to be something more to me personally than “just” a blog, Facebook page, or a Twitter ID. The process of tending and integrating the content on three sites has opened my mind to how rich, full and similar much of our worlds–virtual and real–are. It’s not unusual for me to get gardening advice from Alabama, and I’ve discovered that I have much in common with Australian gardeners who fight heat and drought regularly, too. 

A couple of my online pals think it’s funny that I still hesitate to describe myself as a “garden blogger.” The fact that I’m a B+-grade gardener aside, I write about so much more here–and elsewhere–than strictly gardening. Maybe it’s the Old Media training, but  I prefer the plain ol’ generic term “writer,” a writer who has held her own lens up to the world of social media and discovered the rich diversity of our world in a particular moment. 

The interactions, the comments, the chats, the visits—it’s all been a gift. Truly. Thanks, y’all. After two years of blogging, I’m looking forward to see where RW&G goes next. (Stay tuned.)

*”Getting” Twitter is tough for neophytes. The other day I mentioned to a friend that Twitter has always reminded me of one of Charles Baudelaire’s poems, To a Passerby. The stream is the “street,” and the woman in question is an idea, a thought, a passing quip that can strike one as meaningful, relevant, poignant… you name it.  Those gems lifted from the stream may prove to be the foundation of a story or a blog post–or simply an opportunity to engage with another user with whom you’ve never met. But if you don’t catch that thought in the stream, it’s “A lightning flash… then night!,” isn’t it? (Unless, of course, you’re really good with Twitter’s search function.)

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