A while ago I can remember @PaulJthinks encouraging people to follow me on Twitter as I was a hundred or so followers short of 3000. I now have nearing 8000 and I have been reflecting what that really means to me and how I use my valuable network.
There are a number of people who theorise about networks and connections. Metcalfe’s law is one of these, originating with a theory around Ethernet connections and now sometimes used to describe how number of possible cross-connections in a network grow as the square of the people in the network increases. In other words the community value of a network grows as the square of the number of its users increase.
It all sounds a bit technical to me, and a bit theoretical, but I’ve been reflecting on what my network means to me and how my numbers of followers seems to have grown without any deliberate act on my part to make it happen.
I have always been a connector in groups. In my social life I seem to create social groups and then, as they become impossible to manage socially as separate groups (there are just not enough days in a year), I join groups together. It’s not something I set out to do but I recognise that’s what happens; I am often the unique connection in our social groups – they lived next door, or I worked with them, or their children went to the same child-minder or I used to give them a lift to work.
I don’t set out to behave this way. I don’t set out to collect connections or people or friends it just seems to happen – I love people and I am very extrovert, not in the bouncing loud sort of way, at least all the time, but in the wanting to hear about people and share stories and experiences way. The truth is I am much more reserved than people think but this fascination with people makes me seem very extrovert I suspect (a previous blog covers exactly this here).
So why am I thinking about networks and connections now? As I have strengthened my professional network with my social media activity I find I am increasingly focussed on how I can connect people together, that the relationship with me is not the most helpful one but that I can act as a sort of lightening rod to others; connecting wonderful people together. It hasn’t always felt this way but as the strength and depth of my social media network has increased I feel more able to do this – my investment in my relationships seems to have made them deeper and stronger. Again not deliberate act but on reflection that’s is probably what has happened.
When I first noticed this behaviour I did have a moment of anxiety. It’s a bit like when you are at school and your best friend wanders off with another friend that you introduced them to and my instinctive response might have been – ‘but she’s MY friend’.
Interestingly that isn’t what happens now and I’m fascinated by how connecting others to each other seems to step up the power in my network! I have no idea how I got to 250 followers let alone near 8000 – it just seemed to happen but I do know I definitely feel connected to more great people.
In the NHS today it feels more fragmented than ever before. Organisations seem less likely to share than in the past and networks that existed across Strategic Health Authorities for example feel like they have fallen away. I think that if we all behaved as active ‘connectors’ it might just power us up a little bit and we might even find that we become turbo charged if we connect beyond our usual networks; I personally love the fact I have connections in social care, housing, voluntary sector, who work for themselves, who work in the NHS – the list goes on. I don’t know exactly how it happened but I am glad it did and there is nothing more satisfying that making a successful introduction then watching some magic happen! I love my network and seeing it help me to help others through acting as a connector is doubly satisfying – even if there is a little demon on my shoulder saying ‘don’t forget to keep loving me too will you?’
Could you be a better connector? I’m going to keep trying.
Beware of spreading yourself too thin says one speaking from experience ! And keep a little something back ,just for yourself . No offence meant . You are an inspirational woman. Kind regards .
Hi Sue, when I wrote the blog I did read something about being a ‘giver’. It was interesting reading. Essentially it said its OK so long as you are not consistently giving to ‘takers’. My experience has been that the more I give the more I in turn receive. But I also know you are right. Your words are targeted well 🙂 x
Annie, it is this network making / community developing joining that is fascinating to me about SM – and not just Twitter but Facebook. But then again I am a closet information / digital / communication academic (just like nursing, academia never truly leaves you!) . When looking at discussions like this I am always reminded of Communities of practice. It fits the actions of SM well with its boundaries, spanners, stars and storytelling at its heart.
Hi Mandy – I agree and I think Communities of Practice could be a power house for change but I wish they were more widespread. People need time to think and act too and that’s often in short supply in the NHS. But we live in hope 🙂
I feel as though I could have written that blog Annie – we have much in common! I love making connections too and it feels really special when I know I have brought two other people together – sometimes ones I don’t even know that well myself, but where I ‘spot’ a special potential for friendship or collaboration (often one leads to the other!). Keep connecting, dear Annie – and save a bit of time for my next trip to Leeds 🙂 xx
Annie, you’ve tapped in directly to something I’ve been reflecting on recently. I was reluctant to expose myself on social media initially and having been persuaded to join Facebook and Twitter, I treated both as merely recreational. Mum’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s and my need for some sort of understanding and support prompted me to use Twitter in particular in a significantly different way. No longer was I passive twitter user, idly following people and giving little back, I now actively sought out people with a perspective on dementia or something valuable to say on social care in general. Those connections not only helped with coming to terms with Mum’s dementia but they widened my horizons in general. Sometimes connections from the early days will comment on what I write about Mum, some saying that they appreciate a little more about dementia. So, although I don’t feel I connect groups, I do think that I sometimes connect thought, if that doesn’t sound too pretentious. Thanks for all the connecting you do.
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