The occasional ramblings of a freelance lexicographer

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Twitter versus the bean seeds: the pressures of keeping across everything

A blog post I read this morning about the importance of editors keeping up-to-date with the latest trends in publishing (What Do Editors Need To Know Now? via White Ink Limited) got me thinking again about how good I am at keeping my finger on the professional pulse – not just of publishing trends, but also of all the ideas relevant to what I do in ELT, EAP, corpora, lexicography and just language trends generally. It seems that since the explosion of social media, there’s so much potentially relevant stuff being flagged up and available out there to check out, I could easily spend more time on ‘professional development’ than I do on actually getting on with work! Facebook and Twitter both seem to daily throw up links to interesting blog posts and online articles, then there’re Twitter chats (like #EAPchat) and Facebook threads. There are webinars and videos of talks to watch, either live or recorded, and of course, I also hear about more ‘real-life’ events worth attending too. A lot of it’s really useful, and often inspiring, stuff, but it just eats time!

And even then, when I meet up with colleagues, I still find myself embarrassingly ill-informed in comparison – whether that’s academic research that my EAP colleagues bandy around or the latest edtech that my techier pals slip nonchalantly into conversation (notice I’m at least picking up some of the jargon though!). Of course, I like to reassure myself that I’m not actually less informed, it’s just that we all tend to focus on different things. Although having a finger in lots of pies, I do sometimes feel like I just skim lots of things and don’t really spend enough time on any of them.

It seems amazing now that I spent the first 10 years or so of my freelancing career relying on not much more than a yearly visit to the IATEFL conference and the odd article in the IATEFL magazine to keep up-to-date with what was going on beyond what I was immediately working on. It makes me wonder ...

  • were we all just less-informed and narrower in outlook back then?
  • does having all this extra information make us better at what we do?
  • is a lot of what’s out there just an unnecessary waste of time? (I do find that I read a lot that goes over the same old ground and it’s only occasionally that I pick out a genuinely useful, informative nugget)
  • and if so, what’s the best way to filter out all the ‘noise’ and focus on the genuinely useful stuff?

On that last point, I do feel a bit of an undercurrent, especially on Twitter, of having to be seen to keep up with the right stuff and also of taking a supportive interest in what people you ‘know’ (in the loosest, social media sense of the word) are doing, even when it’s only on the periphery of your own interests. It’s a pressure I try to resist, but definitely one that’s difficult to ignore completely.

I guess everyone has to find their own balance and way of getting what they want from social media and the "information age" generally, and we all go through phases of being more or less connected, and more or less concerned about the pressure to be across everything all the time. Personally, with the coming of spring (at long last!), I think I’m going to be prioritizing time spent in my garden over time in front of my computer over the next few months … and I’m going to try really hard not to feel guilty or out-of-touch as a result!

Daily updates on the progress of my beans!

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