Two years ago I sat with a group of people for a two day self directed and self facilitated learning experience. The intention behind the event was that we would direct our own discussions, that a loose structure would allow us to explore thinking, for there to be dialogue, and for us to hone and craft our facilitation skills. I knew these people mostly from Twitter, had various interactions and engagements with them in real life and on social media, and regarded everyone there well. When we were doing our introductions and talking about our purpose for being there, I unexpectedly started crying. I couldn’t stop. I was offered if I needed a moment to myself, and I took it. On coming back into the room, I wasn’t questioned about how I was, I wasn’t cuddled, and I wasn’t judged. There was enough trust and empathy within the group that there was an appreciation that I would know and could ask for the help and support I needed without it being offered.
As the years have gone on, as I’ve grown with social media and keep learning how to get the best from it and how to give my best to it, there are some surprising things that have developed which I would not have expected on the outset.
Sooner or later, in the world of social media, you hear about personal learning networks (or PLNs). A group of people that you are connected with, can learn from, share knowledge with, have discussions with, connect in real life, possibly do work together, and all with a shared understanding that it’s a mutually beneficial relationship.
What I’ve personally discovered, though, as I think many do, is the unexpected point when the PLN becomes more. Consider my experience I described at the outset of the blog – could such a thing have been cultivated and engendered with another disparate group of people on your typical training course? Possibly, but not likely. There was something about the fact that we were a PLN that allowed a deeper connection to be present without needing to build that level of trust at the outset.
What I’ve discovered, personally, is that my PLN has grown to be that, and with a group of others, they are clearly now friends and my personal support network. I can rely on these people to help me when I need them. I value their thinking, their challenge to me, and I value them individually. I have found someone who I can trust as a counsellor and they help me work through personal struggles. I have found someone who I can talk openly with about starting my own consultancy and bounce ideas with. I have found someone I can hold events with and enjoy the experience. I have found friends, unexpectedly.
So in your world of building a professional network of people through social media, don’t be cut off to how the network can suddenly become more, and what that can mean for you personally.
In no order, I honour these people for being in my personal support network. David D’Souza, Phil Willcox, Julie Drybrough, Meg Peppin, Doug Shaw, Fiona McBride, Simon Heath, Perry Timms, Tash Stallard, Rachel Burnham, Martin Couzins, Jo Stephenson, David James, David Goddin, José Franca, and Michelle Parry Slater.