There’s lifelong learning in the ol’ dog yet

I love spring time.  Spring is often seen as a good time to learn something new.  But as we’re all faced with the option of learning new things throughout the year and our lives, perhaps anytime is a good time.

Learning often succeeds or fails depending on its relevance to our lives and our attitude to it.  Social networking is a good example of this.  There are numerous articles on social networking where people are railing against the annoyance of feeling obliged to get a Twitter/Facebook/LinkedIn account in order remain in with the, well, in-crowd, I suppose.

The key to learning a new thing, from how to use email, spreadsheets, Twitter, Facebook, to learning a language or a musical instrument is application and therefore frequency of use.  If you’re only going to dedicate some time and attention occasionally, it’s going to be very hard to learn, because the instructions won’t stick in your head and you won’t progress.

So, for all the online stuff that you feel obliged to -but in truth would rather not – use, here’s an alternative suggestion: become well-informed instead.

Clearly, this won’t work for everything.  Knowing all about guitars is nothing like actually learning how to play one, but for the world of social networking, if it doesn’t seem very relevant to your life, but you feel that nagging need-to-know just the same, then learning about a platform,  instead of signing up to actually use it may well be enough.

By this I mean that you may not actually need or want to use Facebook, LinkedIn, Myspace, Twitter, blogs and so on, but you’d quite like to understand them.  It’s quite easy and quick to learn what these platforms are all about.  And that keeps you in the loop, which keeps you from feeling excluded when your friends, colleagues or children are talking about them.  And if you do decide to sign up to one of them, you’ll be better informed about the options.  There’s no need to be excluded!

There are explanatory sites, such as the Latecomer’s guide to social networking and, if you prefer print,  the Dummies’ guides are popular.

In Lucy Kellaway’s recent column about Facebook she writes that a friend of her daughter’s “recently complained that because her grandfather wasn’t on Facebook, she couldn’t wish him a happy birthday. The thought of picking up the phone, let alone buying a card, had not occurred to her.”   I think that’s very sad – clearly said friend also needs to become better informed about “social networking”.

Despite all the hype, Facebook isn’t the only form of communication left to mankind, although I’d say it can be both fun and another useful addition to our many communication methods….but that’s what it is: just another tool.

Happy Easter!

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