A strange love

Or:

How

I learned

To

Stop

Worrying

And

Love

Social Media

Logging in to WordPress today, a notification icon in the top right-hand corner winked at me. It was a little orange cup. This means that something noteworthy has occurred; previous cup symbols have meant that I have passed a certain milestone of followers or likes. What could this one be for?

This one was letting me know that it was one year ago that I registered on WordPress.

On 27 June 2012 Running Buffet was born, kicking and gasping for breath. It has to be noted (for those of you clicking the archive feature and wondering where June 2012 has gone) that my first post and my first tweet as Running Buffet did not appear until 11 July 2012, so you could argue that Running Buffet did not emit his first mewling cry until that day. But 27 June was the day it all started.

First tweetHitting this milestone has prompted me to look back at the last year and to consider how my first year of blogging has gone. But rather than trot out a round of statistics about the last year, I thought that I would look at the impact that blogging has had on me. What have I discovered? What have I found out? What has caught my eye over the last 12 months?

Because, you see, I am a relative latecomer to social media. For years I resisted the lure of facebook, unsure how it would enrich my life in any meaningful way. Whilst I have no doubt that I would be drawn back to it time after time, it would only be to sneak a look at what my “friends” had been up to. It may just be me, but I find it decidedly strange that I would be able to see, for example, wedding photos for a wedding I didn’t go to, featuring a bride and groom that I have, at best, a fleeting acquaintance with, on the internet. I’m just not sure that I am ready for that level of accessibility.

So how did I end up on twitter?

Mrs RB and I are part of a local, Devon-based voluntary group. We are an aging group and the volunteer numbers are starting to dwindle. New members are hard to come by and the existing ones are, as you might expect, getting gradually older. In a bid to connect with “the youth” (and the fact that I have added inverted commas around that phrase is a sad indication that there was never even the slightest glimmer of hope that we would be successful in making that connection) we set up a twitter account for our group and started spreading the word.

Whilst the number of new members attracted via the medium of twitter currently stands at a resounding zero, I found that I was quickly hooked on twitter itself. It is ridiculously addictive. Deciding that I needed my own account, I was still unsure about entering the world of social media in my own right. What was the purpose of joining twitter? Our volunteer page was all about promoting our volunteering group and I felt strongly that my personal twitter account should have its own goal as well. If it had a purpose, a focus, then it was less likely to end up as merely a series of pointless observations, “witty” comments and retweeted photos of funny looking vegetables.

(The fact that recent tweets of mine include a link to a photo of US marines playing quidditch, a tweet about cutting up a butternut squash and something about how annoying the alarm on my phone is, shouldn’t detract from the lofty aims I had when I set out on this twitter adventure. The real failure would have come not from failing miserably at having at least 140 characters-worth of interesting things to say each day, but from not aiming high enough in the first place. Possibly.)

But what could my twitter account promote? In short, me. For I had also decided to flex my creative muscles and to start a blog. The reasons for this were fairly rudimentary: I wanted to write something and I wanted to get fitter. I had the strange notion that, having announced my fitness goals to the world (or, at least, to the handful of people who accidentally stumbled across my blog whilst googling “can you make sandwiches the night before for a buffet?”; still my favourite piece of data gleaned from the WordPress stat pages) then I would be under greater pressure to achieve those goals. Why not use twitter to promote my new blog, which would, in turn, help me grow my readership, help me stick to my training and help me get fitter?

And thus, Running Buffet’s online presence was born. Ta-da! Roll out the bunting. No presents please.

First postWhat I had not anticipated were the many and varied things and people that I have discovered over the last year. For it turns out that blogging is a two-way street. I am not just pumping out the occasional blog post, I am also reading other bloggers’ work, I am connecting with other users on twitter, I am reading new articles and stories and, generally, discovering what is out there on the internet. This blog may be my base, my home and starting point in the muddled, varied, confusing world of the internet, but I can travel far from that base, often returning amused, enlightened, entertained or puzzled. Or all of the above.

There are far too many things from the last year to pull together into a comprehensive list here, but there are a few items of particular note that I would like to record for posterity. These are things that have grabbed my attention and that I would not have been aware of, had I not started out on this small adventure a year ago.

  • To start off with, please can I recommend the blogs listed in the “Blogs I follow” section at the side of the main page of this blog. They are an eclectic bunch, but I have enjoyed reading all of them. Perhaps there will be something there that you will also discover and enjoy. Please give them a go.
  • The author Neil Gaiman recently kicked off a twitter-based project to create a Calendar of Tales. He tweeted various questions and used the answers as inspiration for a set of 12 short, short stories. These are all available at the above link and I would have no hesitation in recommending them. Readers were then asked to submit their own art in response to the stories. I was really taken with the interactive nature of this project. Yes, it has Blackberry plastered all over it, but there was also a side of it that really appealed to me: the collaborative creative process, powered by twitter. I would not have understood, nor probably seen, that project had it happened a year earlier.
  • A greater, and growing, appreciation of really good beer has been one of the upsides of this blog-writing experience and this is, again, something that I did not see coming a year ago. You can read more about that side of the last 12 months in the Year in Beer section of the blog, but one twitter-powered beer story that deserves a special mention is Brewdog’s Mashtag experiment: handing over control of the brewing of a new beer to the great unwashed. The result was an American brown ale, brewed with New Zealand hops and aged on hazelnuts and oak chips. Brewdog are all about off-the-wall promotion, and this is just another example of that, but who else would hand over their production processes to the masses? You have to admire their audaciousness.
  • Juneathon, Janathon, 5×50, Total Immersion and the many other exercise-related ideas, initiatives and inspirations that I have found out about over the last year. A year ago, I thought it was all about self-motivation and going out for a run in the evening on my own. A year later, I am wiser and I know that there are so many great ideas out there just waiting to be found and used by those with an interest in getting fit, staying fit, or just having some fun and some exercise. If you’re looking for a start, a boost or just something different, then there is undoubtedly something out there for you.

So Running Buffet is now one year old. What does the next year hold? I have no idea, but I’m looking forward to finding out.

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