The sweetness in social media use

By Anne Collier

I just had to write about this, thankful as I am to feel so close to my family and friends new and old while working 12 time zones away. I’m in Baku, Azerbaijan, for the 2012 Internet Governance Forum, for which I’m co-leading a session on digital citizenship involving teens and young adults from here, Georgia, Iran, Egypt, and Hong Kong, and where my co-director Larry Magid will be speaking on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. I stay a week when I travel across the Atlantic, because coach air fares seem consistently to run about $1,000 less if you stay over a Saturday night, so it’s one of our longer business trips.

But I’m lucky, I do have well-loved colleagues to see here, though I had the sweetest of experiences sharing Sunday-afternoon touristy photos via Instagram and Facebook with friends in those social-media services. In the comments were all these voices connecting me with home, warming my heart and reviving faded memories of past associations. Besides my immediate and extended, far-flung family, I heard from an old friend and colleague from my newspaper days, a new friend and colleague from Democratic Republic of Congo, met at the Nairobi IGF a year ago, and another new friend and colleague I met during the Vilnius, Lithuania, Internet Governance Forum and with whom I shared the chilling experience of visiting Vilnius’s Genocide Victims Museum – and then getting a tour from young Lithuanians I met on the flight there. I can follow what they’re all up to on Facebook. Then there was a friend I knew in college (I won’t tell you how long ago).

Another great connection with home was via Twitter. The dad of one of my son’s hockey teammates is extremely Twitter- and hockey-literate. So he set up a Twitter account for our team, the San Jose Junior Sharks (15-year-old AAA), and now tweets play-by-play coverage for all the parents who can’t be there. A couple of weeks ago they played in Salt Lake City, and this past weekend in Chicago. It’s almost as good as being there, and better than watching games live-streamed on the Web, when that’s possible. It’s much more personal – really puts you there more than a constant-wide-angle shot of at least a half sheet of ice on which no players’ numbers can be made out. The dad, Marty, has a lot of fun with hashtags. Our hockey players love going back over his tweets after the game to laugh at the hashtag cleverness and see what Marty said about everybody’s shots, saves, checks, dangles, penalties, etc. You can check it out yourself here – and maybe you or a Twitter-literate mom or dad of a soccer or volleyball or whatever player on your kid’s team can tweet the games.

Anyway, the week’s almost over, but when I wasn’t working (more on that soon) and trying to get Air Azerbaijan to deliver my baggage (3 days late), I could share photos and watch the kid’s ice hockey from Azerbaijan. Does that seem a little mind-blowing and sweet at the same time to you too? In any case, it’s getting harder to be homesick!

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