Over the course of my current service year I have tried various new ways of networking. As a VMC I realized that consistently building and nurturing relationships was an asset to any professional relationship but I don’t think I truly realized its importance until this year. Ah, the beauty of new experiences! Through trainings (both with VM and external organizations), networking events (including Destination AmeriCorps) and social media I have learned how essential it is to remain connected.
While both planning and attending in-person networking events have become interests of mine I have been attempting to be more engaged in the online world through the use of Twitter and Facebook. I have also been interested in how a lack of presence in the virtual world affects relationships. In March I decided to disable my Facebook account (this only lasted a month or so). Immediately after my profile had disappeared, I experienced some interesting reactions. I had acquaintances who I hadn’t spoken to in months email me and some friends who I talk to regularly stop communicating with me because they had relied on FB. One of my friends even told me how weird it was that I wasn’t on FB, like I didn’t exist! It was somewhat shocking to see how my absence caused different people to reconnect or stray away. At the same time, I felt like it was a positive change because I was more committed to focusing on close relationships in more personable ways instead of directing my attention to the sporadic comments of 357 contacts. So, on a personal level, it was an intriguing experiment.
As for the effect on my professional world, the change wasn’t too drastic but I did feel that I was out of the loop in keeping up with nonprofits and other networked professionals. The beauty of having written and visual communication makes for a very engaging way of connecting. Not being able to see that and remain interested certainly affected my level of interest. Since FB was a part of my daily online routine, having those messages, links to more information and news, and photographs always allowed me to be more invested, even in a minute way. But, like my personal connections, the absence of FB allowed me to focus on nonprofits I am passionate about instead of a very large (but equally great) collection. It’s a weird balance.
In a couple of weeks I will be attending the National Conference on Volunteering and Service with a handful of other Volunteer Maryland members and staff. I am so excited as this will be an opportunity to not only learn more about so many aspects of volunteerism but network in multiple ways. I hope to meet many people at the events but am going to take advantage of the various methods of social media communications that will be taking place. The HandsOn Network recently published a blog entry about the different methods of social media that will be used at the conference, I recommend checking it out (click here)! I hope that I can effectively use Twitter (check me out at @LauraAce) to communicate what I learn and meet others from around the country. Send me a tweet if you’re there!