As anyone who spends even a smidgen of time navigating social media knows, Facebook and Pinterest and the rest can be one great big time suck. It’s so easy to be distracted by videos of cute puppies, or decorating ideas, or the latest political baloney those certain friends can’t help but share – without actually fact-checking the source first.
But social media has its benefits, too. For me, as a writer, the great big world of social media allows me to share my work with a larger – or at least different – audience than it otherwise might attract. It’s also a place to build my network of sources, which is especially helpful when my subject matter ranges from luna moths and hiking to Christmas trees, chamber music, and staying sane while raising kids.
A few weeks back I used Facebook to track down someone I wanted to interview for a story I’m writing for a ski magazine. We’d never met, but I had his name and a few basic bits of information, and he was easy to find on Facebook. Sent a message, got a response, and set up the interview with a few key strokes. Beautiful.
Turns out my interview subject and I had a few shared connections, or connections-once-removed. He used to ski race with a guy I used to coach with, and he’s also friends with the son of my former boss. Small (virtual) world. I used Facebook to set up two other interviews with strangers for that story, too. So, along with the given distractions of the social media world, I also got some work done that day, via Facebook.
Earlier this week, while sitting home with a sick child and grappling with the new realization that I’d be without a stove and oven for an entire week, I put a post on Facebook about my dilemma. Within minutes I had meal ideas ranging from pancakes or quesadillas on the electric griddle to crock pot chicken and pizza on the grill. One friend offered the loan of a toaster oven, another said I was welcome to use her kitchen, and my sister-in-law invited us for dinner.
The most entertaining suggestion came from a former local town official, with whom I used to speak just about every day when I worked as a newspaper reporter. I haven’t seen or spoken with him in years, other than on Facebook. He shared a link to an NPR piece titled “Coffee Maker Cooking: Brew Up Your Next Dinner.” (Check out the article here.) I don’t think I could bring myself to place a piece of salmon with ginger and garlic into my coffee pot, while steaming broccoli and cauliflower in the basket. But it was an interesting read.
So, beyond pure distracted amusement and work-related contacts, social media this week provided me with useful information, along with the whimsical meal musings of friends. Where else can you get dinner ideas from people from your past and present, down the road and across the country, new friends and childhood buddies, work colleagues and fellow preschool moms, even the local police chief? That is the wild and wacky web social media weaves.
One of the responders to my post, a woman I went to high school with half a lifetime ago, suggested I check out Pinterest for more ideas. I’m still holding out on that one. I don’t Tweet either (at least not yet), so you won’t find any hashtags in my posts. But if you’re reading this (or any of my other stuff) online and want to pass it along, by all means, click the share button!
Original content by Meghan McCarthy McPhaul, posted to her blog: Writings From A Full Life. This essay also appears as Meghan's Close to Home column in the March 28, 2014 edition of the Littleton Record.