By Jennifer Bardsley
Many years ago when I was a new mom and my days were filled with co-op preschool and deep discussions with my little guy about bulldozers, there were posters in downtown Edmonds featuring prominent residents reading books. I don’t remember who was in this literacy campaign, but I do recall thinking: “Since I’m a stay-at-home mom, nobody cares about what I read.”
Maybe you have felt this way too — unnoticed. Every time you turn on the television commentators discuss books, politics, parenting and equality, but nobody thrusts a microphone in front of you to hear your opinion. Nobody blows up a poster of your face. Nobody cares what you think.
That’s how I felt when my son was little, but I don’t think that now. The main change for me is I’ve learned to engage with social media in a way that is beyond liking my friend’s latest Facebook picture.
The first way I learned to join public conversations was through blogging. My blog, TeachingMyBabytoRead.com, doesn’t make a profit, but it does give me a platform to discuss issues in education that are close to my heart. I learned that if I write about a topic that a famous person is passionate about, I can send my blog link, and he or she will often write back. Presto!
People hear me.
Blogging takes a lot of work, but Twitter and Facebook are easy. I had a Twitter account for over a year before I learned to use it properly. My main problem was that I didn’t understand hashtags. A hashtag (#) is a key to conversations. If you tweet “Coal trains are disgusting. Protect our environment now!” nobody but your Twitter friends will hear you.
But if you add one or two hashtags, strangers who follow those hashtags will see your tweets. “Coal trains are disgusting #stopcoaltrains #idlenomore.”
You can take your tweet to the next level by tagging a politician. “Disgusting #coaltrains pollute #Edmonds. @PattyMurray Pls protect our environment!” Retweets from followers will carry your voice to an even larger audience.
On Facebook you can like pages devoted to topics you care about and join the conversations. If you follow the Everett Herald on Facebook or Twitter (@everettherald) for example, you can discuss things happening in our community right now. From the ice caves to politics, Herald readers talk about everything.
You could also start your own Facebook page devoted to a passionate interest. Facebook pages are free to create and don’t require a lot of technical skill. I have a Facebook page called The YA Gal that has over 12,000 followers who love to talk about young adult fiction. It turns out lots of people care about what I read, I just had to find them.
So go ahead. Be noticed! All of us have something important to share. Social media doesn’t have to be a trivial time-suck. It could be your path to making your voice heard.